The Pittsburgh Steelers wasted little time adding player to their roster via free agency. First it was Mitch Trubisky, then Mason Cole. Knowing they needed to make a move in the defensive backfield, the Steelers were able to obtain the talents of former Buffalo Bills cornerback Levi Wallace.
Wallace has spent his entire NFL career in Buffalo, and adapting to a new city, team and system hasn’t been the easiest thing for the former Alabama cornerback.
“This is the first time I have moved teams,” Wallace said during Organized Team Activities (OTAs). “It’s been good so far. The team has embraced me. The DB room is a great group of guys. Learning the scheme, new plays and stuff. Just getting into the groove. Feeling my way through the defense.”
This stage of the NFL calendar is vital in team development, but also in giving players like Wallace an opportunity to get acclimated to the new system of Teryl Austin. There might not be contact during OTAs and mandatory minicamp, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done.
“This is the time you start training your eyes, what you are looking at in specific coverages,” said Wallace. “For me it is big. With the Bills I was in the same defense for four years. I could run that with my eyes closed. It’s challenging, but fun at the same time learning new plays.
“The biggest thing for me is learning new signals. Everyone runs the same defense, the same play calls. It’s all about communication and verbiage. That’s the biggest thing when you come into this defense. I’m picking it up pretty well, but there are always some tweaks you can learn from.”
As for Austin, this is his first stint as defensive coordinator for the Steelers, and his impact goes well beyond the X’s and O’s of the defense. Wallace has leaned on Austin for his expertise in the defensive secondary.
“He is also a really great person to talk to, ask questions to, easy to communicate. I definitely appreciate it. Just asking questions. Just seeing how he sees it through his eyes. It gives me the best chance. He breaks it down. His door is always open for me and for the rest of the guys. It is easy to communicate with him and ask, what could I have done better here, and he gives a truthful answer.”
Wallace himself said every team runs the same defense, but how different is the Steelers’ scheme compared to the one he ran in Buffalo? It might be different, but that simple fact doesn’t mean both the defense and Austin aren’t putting together the pieces of a stellar defense.
“It is a little bit different,” said Wallace. “It’s unique, but I love how he [Austin] is as a play-caller thus far. I love the defense. It’s just a little different. I think it’s just different for me because I just came from a different system, so learning it and seeing the ins and outs, how I can be successful in the defense when I go out there with my opportunities.”
Moving into a new organization can be an adjustment, and how new teammates embrace a player can be a difference maker. Thankfully for Wallace, the Steelers defense has been tremendous in welcoming him into the fold and starting the process of improving the defense as a whole in 2022.
“I love how together everybody is,” said Wallace. “The grittiness they play with. They are all trying to do the same thing. They are all trying to be on the same page. They all communicate, which I love. It’s been good. A great group of guys.
“And there are no egos in the room, which I really appreciate. It makes the biggest difference when you have the goal that we are just here to win. We all support each other. Here everyone is on the same page, everybody wants everybody to be successful and go from there.”
The Steelers secondary is anything but proven heading into the regular season. When you look at the list of cornerbacks who have NFL experience, they lack a genuine top cornerback. Take a look at the depth chart:
While names like Tre Norwood might impact the above list, you can see how the Steelers are hoping Wallace steps up in a big way for the defense this season. It won’t be easy, but Wallace seems to be up to the challenge.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the start of training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA July 26th.