The Pittsburgh Steelers seemingly elected to move on from Joe Haden this offseason, re-signing Ahkello Witherspoon on a two-year, $8 million contract instead. They also brought in Levi Wallace on the same deal as an outside free agent, instead, coming over from Buffalo where he will join Cameron Sutton and Witherspoon as the presumptive top three cornerbacks.
What will the pecking order be? That’s not really Wallace’s concern, for the time being, as he told Brian Batko recently at OTAs for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I didn’t really think too hard about it”, he admitted about what his ultimate role will be. “Once you’re on the field, football is football”.
One thing we do know with reasonable certainty is that the Steelers will expect Wallace to be an outside cornerback, so while we don’t know when he might play, we do know where. Like Witherspoon, and Haden before them, he is not being viewed as some sort of utility player who will just plug in wherever he’s needed.
Even in the context of boundary defenders, though, he doesn’t give much thought to pecking order. “Honestly, I’d never even heard of, like, ‘CB1’ or ‘CB2’ until recently. I thought corners were corners”, he acknowledged, and, well, I know I personally have written multiple times this offseason that the Steelers have three CB2s and no CB1. Still, he recognized that what his former teammate, Tre’Davious White, was asked to do was something more.
“I think Tre was obviously one of the best corners that we had, and he honestly was a ‘CB1,’ taking the Number 1 receivers a lot of the time”, he told Batko. “But when he got hurt last year, I took a lot of them, and I’d guarded them before, too. That stuff doesn’t faze me”.
No, he doesn’t much sound like a guy who would be fazed by anything that’s a part of the game. At the end of the day, he has to cover a guy in front of him, no matter who that is or how many times he has to do it or in what context. It’s what he’s done his whole football life—there’s no need for labeling it.
A former walk-on at Alabama, Wallace went undrafted but quickly emerged as a four-year starter in the Bills’ secondary, offering pretty stable and reliable play. It’s what the Steelers were attracted to in him during free agency, and now he makes up a core part of their own secondary—no matter what arbitrary cornerback ‘number’ he may be assigned.