As you may well know, Pittsburgh Steelers center Cody Wallace will be in for a stiff challenge tomorrow against the front line of the Rams, who bought arguably the best front four in the league. With that in mind, let’s take a look back at his performance from the last game in preparation.
The majority of observers will understand the level of play that Wallace is able to bring, no matter how many times is uttered the phrase “the standard is the standard”. While the standard may not change, the ability to reach that standard certainly varies by player.
If the standard at center is Maurkice Pouncey, then Wallace is obviously sub-standard, but it’s not criticism to be the match of an All-Pro player. On the first play of the game, however, he was shed by nose tackle Ian Williams, who had himself a nice day playing against the backup. Williams slid with the line, but once DeAngelo Williams looked to cut back, he shed the block and made the tackle for no gain.
Later on the same drive, the center was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty for throwing a block after the play had been made, which stalled the drive. I have previously given him the benefit of the doubt on this one, in that his gaze was upfield, and he may not have been aware that the tackle had been made on a screen pass.
During the middle of the Steelers’ second drive, and the first that put points on the board, the offense showed its willingness to keep its playbook intact even without Pouncey’s elite mobility. Wallace was on the move to get downfield on a screen pass, but both he and the left tackle were unable to get to their blocks.
On the first play of the following drive, Wallace was handled again by Williams, the nose tackle, making the stop on the running back after a short gain. The nose tackle immediately gained advantage and moved Wallace out of the hole. When the back looked to cut back inside, Williams spun back around to make the tackle.
On the end of that same drive, however, he managed to get the better of NaVorro Bowman on what certainly felt like less than 100 percent effort from the former Pro Bowler. Wallace was able to failed easily walk him around in a circle to provide space for Williams to rush in for a two-yard touchdown.
Following a one-play touchdown drive, the Steelers opened up their final series of the first half with a screen pass to Williams, again trying to get Wallace out in front. He did a good initial job of mirroring Bowman, but ultimately his less than ideal athleticism won out.
Of course, it’s a lot easier for the defender to see what the running back is doing in that situation, and where to be on the field. Ultimately, however, it’s clear that there are going to be a number of plays in every game that he plays that simply do not go well because of his failures in one-on-one matchups. The same is true of most backups.