Offseasons have been rare for the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent years in which they didn’t have a lot of work to do to try to approximate a complete 53-man roster. They’ve always fallen short in one way or another, truth be told, and not just because they failed to win a playoff game in the past five years.
While the story hasn’t changed this offseason—they still have several significant deficiencies left to address—but they have had the cap space to attack several key needs in free agency thus far, and they have done that. They have been savvy in reworking their cornerback room, for example, including the addition of former Buffalo Bills outside starter Levi Wallace.
In addition to the return of Ahkello Witherspoon, who was a late addition to their roster in 2021, Wallace will mark a new starting outside tandem, most likely, with Joe Haden inevitably moving on at this point, and Cameron Sutton clearly ticketed for the slot. Pro Football Focus was particularly high on the Steelers’ move of Wallace, calling it one of the top 10 most underrated free-agent signings.
Cornerback Levi Wallace is a classic underdog story that just continues to defy the odds at every turn. He was once a walk-on at Alabama before going undrafted, but hanging onto a starting spot for the Bills for the last few years. He’ll likely never be a superstar, but he has at least average PFF coverage grades every year of his career, and that’s well worth $8 million over two years.
Wallace has started the last 52 games of his career, going back to the middle of his rookie season in 2018. He missed four games due to injury in 2020, but he has been a consistent presence for the Bills’ secondary for the past four years.
During that time, he has accumulated 219 tackles, including seven for loss, with six interceptions (two in each of the past three seasons) and 30 passes defensed, including a career-high 10 last year. He had an interception against the Steelers in 2020 off of Ben Roethlisberger in a game in which he had three passes defensed. He also intercepted Devlin Hodges in a fateful 2019 game on the final competitive play.
Since we’re talking about Pro Football Focus, we might as well talk about their grades. The 2021 season was Wallace’ lowest-graded of his career by the outlet, both in overall grade and coverage grade. He has graded worse each season, but his run defense in particular took a hit last year, including 10 missed tackles.
In all, they charge him with 55 receptions allowed on 91 targets in coverage, giving up 650 yards for five touchdowns and three interceptions (numbers that include the postseason). He also had by far a career-high nine penalties.