Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: CB Levi Wallace
Stock Value: Purchased
Reasoning: With three of their top four cornerbacks hitting free agency, the Steelers re-signed two of them will replacing the other with an outside free agent in the form of former Buffalo Bills starter Levi Wallace.
With both Joe Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon both hitting free agency this year, it has long been framed as an either-or scenario. The Steelers did indeed appear to select one over the other, and re-signed Witherspoon
Less expected, though not wholly surprising, is the fact that they also went out and signed another cornerback, in this case Levi Wallace, a former undrafted free agent who has started every game in which he has played since the middle of his rookie year.
The Steelers are not bring in a Pro Bowler with Wallace, but they are getting somebody who is willing to challenge receivers and running backs alike. He will take his licks and dish them out as well. They should get their $4 million a year’s worth out of him, anyway.
The question now is which two cornerbacks play in the base defense. Aside from Witherspoon and Wallace, there is Cameron Sutton, who now seems like the obvious candidate to move into the slot whenever the Steelers are in sub-packages—because neither Wallace nor Witherspoon play inside.
That doesn’t mean Sutton won’t also play on the outside in base and slide over into the middle in sub-packages, however. This has become common around the league, where one of your ‘starters’ is also your slot defender.
So will Wallace be a 100-percent-of-the-snaps player, or will he be a nickel defender who plays on the outside when called upon? He has done both at different points of his career, as have Witherspoon and Sutton. Of the three, only Witherspoon wasn’t a full-time starter last season, though, so he may be the one who enters the field in nickel and dime, but there’s plenty of time to sort that out. And that’s assuming those are the three corners who will play in the nickel. Tre Norwood could be the slot defender.