When it comes to underrated players, the list can be long for many NFL organizations. Players are often overlooked for a multitude of reasons. Maybe they came from a smaller college/university, maybe they have a bigger star at the same, or similar, position, or maybe the player is just starting to come into his own on the team.
The reason doesn’t matter, the fact remains many players get overlooked during the yearly process in the NFL. In a recent ESPN article by Football Outsiders they diagnosed one underrated player for every NFL team. Before diving head-first into the topic, here is a list of who were making these decisions:
The staff of Football Outsiders — Scott Spratt (AFC East), Robert Weintraub (AFC North), J.P. Acosta (AFC South), Mike Tanier (AFC West), Rivers McCown (NFC East), Derrik Klassen (NFC North), Bryan Knowles (NFC South) and Vincent Verhei (NFC West) — highlight some of those underrated players, one from each NFL team, heading into the 2022 season. From a couple of fairly well-known quarterbacks to the linemen who make a quarterback’s job easier, we argue these 32 players deserve more recognition.
If you are like me, you probably would read the above names and ask the same question:
What do they consider underrated?
Football Outsiders explains their criteria, and you can read it below:
Now, underrated can mean a couple of things. It could refer to a good player conventional wisdom tells us is mediocre, or it could refer to a useful player who doesn’t receive the star treatment from NFL fans. Our list below includes both.
Of course Football Outsiders uses their unique tools for grading players, but when the rubber met the road, who was the Pittsburgh Steelers most underrated player?
Let’s take a look:
Levi Wallace, CB
Wallace was an under-the-radar signing from Buffalo, where he turned in a very strong 2021 season and allowed the Bills to survive the loss of Tre’Davious White to injury. Wallace was sixth in the NFL in yards per pass allowed, was 21st in coverage success rate and was a strong run defender as well. His numbers in a vacuum indicate an elite corner — so why was he available in free agency, and for just two years and $8 million?
Part of it is the perception that the Buffalo defense was so strong that Wallace went along for the ride. Part of it is that he played zone for the Bills and lacks man-scheme skills. And part of it is Wallace’s background — he walked on at Alabama and went undrafted. Buffalo has the players to replace him, while in Pittsburgh he immediately becomes the team’s top corner.
To be honest, the fact Wallace was chosen doesn’t surprise me at all; however, the fact he hasn’t played a snap in a black and gold uniform does make me question the validity of this exercise. On top of the fact Wallace is new to the team, and a rather unknown commodity, there were some strong statements regarding Wallace’s time in Buffalo in the above description.
“Wallace went along for the ride.”
“Lacks man-scheme skills.”
“Buffalo has the players to replace him, while in Pittsburgh he immediately becomes the team’s top corner.”
Talk about interesting remarks for Wallace after leaving Buffalo via free agency. Most of the time a player who was a walk-on at a school like Alabama, and contributes, then goes undrafted and turns into a big-time player for an NFL team is celebrated. Guess not by Football Outsiders.
On top of that, the assumption Wallace has no man-scheme skills and is immediately the Steelers’ top cornerback might be a bit hasty. After all, as stated earlier, he hasn’t even played a snap in the Teryl Austin scheme.
But what say you? Who is the Steelers’ most underrated player on the 2022 active roster? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the offseason and training camp at Saint Vincent College on July 26th.