Following the anticipated lack of longtime veteran Joe Haden, who joined the crew in 2017, logging 11 TFLs, three compelled fumbles 54 passes defended, and 10 interceptions, certainly one of which was returned for a rating, Pittsburgh selected to signal Levi Wallace in an try and fill his spot on the boundary. Wallace brings expertise to Pittsburgh, logging 52 begins in his first 4 seasons with the Bills, amassing 219 tackles, seven TFLs, 6 interceptions, and 30 passes defended. Similarly, taking part in alongside a latest Super Bowl contender in Buffalo, Wallace brings nice playoff expertise, compiling 23 tackles, three TFLs, a compelled fumble, an interception, and a go breakup in 5 video games throughout two playoff runs.
In evaluating defensive again play, I are likely to favor single recreation evaluations, the place one can observe a gamers consistency of their approach on a rep to rep foundation, serving to function a projection for his or her continued success or lack thereof in an upcoming season. Likewise, for this text, I made a decision to deal with Wallace’s efficiency in a Week 2 matchup in Miami this previous season.
Despite logging simply 27 snaps earlier than exiting the sport early with a minor damage, Wallace made a noticeable affect on the sport, ending with a pair of tackles, a go breakup, and a powerful interception. Equally intriguing, Wallace showcased nice presence and soccer IQ in each man and zone coverages, persistently ending performs in shut proximity to receivers no matter project.
Despite his slight body, listed at 6’0” 179 kilos, Wallace does an incredible job of offering nice pursuit to the soccer and physicality upon arriving on the level of contact. On a rep under, aligned because the overhang defender to the nub tight finish in an unbalanced journeys set, Wallace identifies the tight finish firing off the ball with a “low hat” triggering to circulation down the road and pursue the ball provider on a zone run to the left.
Noticing the cutback, Wallace folds inside, closes to the close to hip, and finishes on the level of contact with physicality, serving to maintain the run from breaking to the third degree. While not the first trait required to play the place, having cornerbacks who’re keen and succesful tacklers within the run recreation is an excessive luxurious. Particularly in changing Joe Haden, probably the greatest run help cornerbacks throughout the league, Wallace’s skill to stay constant and lively in run help shall be vitally necessary.
While Wallace is extraordinarily aggressive within the run recreation, he can get himself into hassle when unable to remain clear and play in area. Here diagnosing the crack/substitute, Wallace steps down to switch the Taron Johnson’s edge duties, however will get caught peeking inside within the course of, permitting Mike Gesicki to seal him inside.
If Wallace had merely held his exterior include and boxed the oncoming blocker, the run would’ve been compelled inside to the pursuit, and would’ve been stopped at or across the line of scrimmage. In dropping include, Wallace opens a lane for the again to bounce the run exterior, for a acquire of 17 and a brand new set of downs. Maintaining hole duties is a vital a part of crew run protection, and as is proven under, a single participant making an attempt to overcompensate and play exterior of the scheme can open lanes for pricey explosive performs.
Playing a canopy zero man protection project with no security assist might be one of the crucial troublesome duties for a cornerback, notably given the expertise and athleticism on the large receiver place within the fashionable NFL. Particularly given his lack of high finish velocity, Wallace makes use of his superior soccer IQ to anticipate routes and contest the catch level in zero protection project.
Below, with the Dolphins in an 11 personnel doubles set, Wallace aligns pre snap in press protection earlier than backing off to eight yards depth in a aspect shuffle, keying the quarterback for a 3 step learn, anticipating that the ball should come out fast with a six man stress on. Once he identifies a 3 step drop and see’s the quarterback pull the pin on a hitch route, Wallace vegetation, drives, and finishes on the catch level with violence, punching by way of the pocket and separating the receiver from the soccer with a bodily stick. Wallace brings a bodily aspect to the again finish of the Steelers protection, persistently punishing receivers on the catch level and making them work arduous for fast recreation completions.
Wallace’s largest power as a participant is his elite soccer IQ, which permits him to anticipate and bait routes in zone protection, the place he’s undoubtedly at his finest. Below, serving as a deep ⅓ defender in a Cover 3 set, Wallace opts to make the most of a press bail approach, aligning in press protection earlier than transitioning into his crossover run on the snap, gaining depth and keying the quarterback. After staying on high of Jaylen Waddle, Wallace retains his eyes on the quarterback, passing the put up route off and breaking towards the sideline, undercutting a wheel route supposed for Mike Gesicki, and leaping to safe the interception, returning it down the sideline for a wholesome acquire.
Wallace executes his zone protection project to perfection right here, first disguising his pre snap alignment earlier than gaining correct depth to remove the quarterback’s first learn, understanding that if a receiver exits his zone a brand new one is more likely to enter, and staying in section to interrupt and play the soccer at its highest level. Wallace has secured a pair of interceptions in every of his previous three seasons in Buffalo, and will assist carry some a lot wanted turnover creation again to a unit that struggled in that division final season.
While it isn’t a main power of his recreation given his lack of high finish velocity, Wallace is ready to make the most of his prolonged, 32 ¾” arms to disrupt receivers on the line of scrimmage and dictate their path, stopping them from reaching their landmarks in a well timed method. Below, guarding the speedy Jaylen Waddle from a reduce cut up within the boundary, Wallace neatly aligns with exterior leverage, forcing Waddle in direction of his security assist.
At the snap, Wallace stays affected person earlier than opening the gate and entering into Waddle’s hip as he declares inside, on a single stick launch, sustaining contact from a again shoulder place, and forcing Waddle to work by way of his physique on the high of the route. As Waddle makes an attempt a throw by on the high of the curl route, Wallace easily maintains contact, and flips his hips to contest the catch level. While he’s not focused on this rep, his approach is impeccable and reveals nice understanding of the right way to play inside the scheme and use his assist defenders to his benefit.
Once once more working in man protection, this time in a Cover 1 project, Wallace is as soon as once more assigned to the speedy Jaylen Waddle, who’s as soon as once more understanding of a reduce cut up, this time in a good stack behind Mike Gesicki. Once once more, Wallace neatly aligns in off protection at seven yards depth with exterior leverage, anticipating mesh, a standard man beater historically run from tightened splits just like the formation we see under.
At the snap, Wallace identifies mesh instantly as Waddle declares shallow beneath, shuffling to his inside earlier than opening to match the receiver, neatly navigating over the visitors earlier than closing downhill to get again in section with the receiver. While Jacoby Brissett is underneath heavy stress and would probably have been in a position to full this go to Waddle, Wallace’s skill to navigate previous the pure choose routes and shut effectively probably would’ve restricted the catch with minimal area to maneuver for further yards. Naturally, all through the course of a recreation offensive play callers are going to out-scheme defensive coordinators on sure performs, and it’s as much as the defensive gamers to execute their assignments to the perfect of their talents and stop stated performs from turning into recreation breaking explosive performs.
Overall, I used to be extraordinarily impressed with Wallace’s efficiency in opposition to Miami, displaying nice physicality, soccer IQ, and understanding of each the right way to play inside sure defensive schemes in addition to understanding how offense’s are going to attempt to assault him. Joining alongside a proficient cornerback room with the likes of Cameron Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon, search for Wallace so as to add nice communication, physicality, and ball expertise to the again finish of the protection.
Feel free to recommend within the feedback if there are every other gamers inside the Steelers secondary who you want to see single recreation evaluations of final season. I’ll look to proceed with these because the offseason continues, evaluating gamers at each the cornerback and security positions forward of the 2022 season.