Steelers ‘Could’ Re-Sign Veteran Defensive Starter

Levi Wallace

Getty ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote on January 22 that Pittsburgh Steelers "could" re-sign veteran cornerback Levi Wallace.

Most NFL pundits are calling for the Pittsburgh Steelers to make upgrades to their secondary. But ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler didn’t rule out the Steelers bringing back one of their free agent cornerbacks — veteran Levi Wallace.

“The Steelers’ free agency class is not star-studded, but Wallace has been a solid starter over two years in Pittsburgh, producing six interceptions and 12 pass breakups since 2022,” Fowler wrote. “I could see him staying there on another two-year deal closer to free agency.”

Wallace started nine games in 2022 and nine contests during 2023. In 31 games over the past two years, he had 86 combined tackles, 24 pass defenses and 6 interceptions.

The 28-year-old is the only Steelers free agent who started at least nine games in 2023.

Why the Steelers Could Bring Back CB Levi Wallace

With no other top free agent priorities, it would make sense for the Steelers to concentrate on re-signing Wallace. Defensive end Montravius Adams is the only other Steelers free agent who made more than five starts this past season.

Even if the Steelers add cornerbacks through the NFL draft as ESPN’s Matt Miller projected the team to do, Pittsburgh could have a use for Wallace. That’s because, in addition to Wallace, cornerbacks James Pierre, Chandon Sullivan and Elijah Riley are pending free agents for Pittsburgh.

Patrick Peterson, Joey Porter Jr. and Darius Rush are the only cornerbacks the Steelers have signed for next season who finished 2023 on the active roster. And with a $9.775 million cap hit, Peterson is a potential cap casualty this offseason.

Bringing back Wallace could give the Steelers much-needed depth and experience for a cornerback room that may be a lot younger in 2024.

The Argument Against the Steelers Re-Signing Wallace

Fowler described Wallace as solid. But not every metric would agree.

Pro Football Focus graded Wallace 59th out of 78 cornerbacks who played at least 50% of his team’s defensive snaps in 2023. According to PFF, he didn’t excel in any area and particularly struggled in run defense.

Wallace improved as the season went, but based on the PFF grades, he still experienced his worst NFL season.

Wallce’s PFF metric also only improved after his playing time decreased. In the first five weeks of the season, he played at least 93% of the team’s defensive snaps in every game.

During that stretch, Wallace posted a player grade above 59 (out of 100) just once.

Wallace missed Week 8 because of a foot injury. When he returned, Porter took his place in the starting lineup and assumed the role of covering the opposing team’s best receiver.

From that point, Wallace recorded a player grade above 59 in eight of the team’s final 11 games.

With Porter set to retain his role as the team’s top cornerback, perhaps the Steelers could find Wallace a suitable role after signing him to a new contract. Wallace posted better PFF player grades in three starts at the end of the regular season.

But in a perfect world, the Steelers will upgrade cornerback in the draft. Finding a better veteran option than Wallace in free agency will also be on the table.

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