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Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 Exit Interviews: Levi Wallace and James Pierre

Will either player be called on to be a full-time starter in 2023?

NFL: DEC 24 Raiders at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2022 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2023.

Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, we here at BTSC thought we would do the same. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin has previously stated he starts his interviews with rookies, first year players, and those heading into free agency, we will do the same. To start, I paired a potential free agent with players on rookie contracts. Now that the rookie contracts are done, I’ll pair a player under contract with a free agent as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.

Next up are cornerbacks Levi Wallace and James Pierre.

Levi Wallace

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Position: Cornerback
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 5
Contract Status: Signed through 2023
Contract Details: $5,482,500 salary cap hit for 2023. Would cost the Steelers $1,482,500 in dead money if released and would save $4,000,000.
Games played in 2022: 15 regular season
Games started in 2022: 9 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 709 (defense), 65 (special teams)
PFF score: 62.8 (68th of 118)
Notable stats: Wallace had career highs in interceptions with 4 as well as passes defensed with 13. Wallace also had 48 tackles.

Notes: In his first season in Pittsburgh, Levi Wallace saw an increased role in usage as the season went on. Following the Steelers bye week, Wallace played 87% or more of the defensive snaps in each game with the exception of the two games against the Baltimore Ravens where the Steelers employed a different defensive approach. Given he and Ahkello Witherspoon have the exact same contract, if the Steelers were to cut ties with anyone it would likely be Witherspoon based on his unavailability in 2022. Until another move is made, Wallace is the top cornerback on the Steelers roster going into the season, but it’s unlikely that remains the same come in the fall. Either way, Wallace’s contributions are still worthwhile for the Steelers defense.

James Pierre

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Position: Cornerback
Years with the Steelers: 3
Years in the NFL: 3
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent
Contract Details: Contract expiring with no dead money. The Steelers are able to offer a Restricted Free Agent Tender if they choose.
Games played in 2022: 17 regular season
Games started in 2022: 2 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 260 (defense), 196 (special teams)
PFF score: 69.9 (DNQ for ranking)
Notable stats: Pierre had one interception, 4 passes defensed, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery as well as 29 tackles in 2022.

Notes: According to Over The Cap, the tender amount for Pierre as a restricted free agent this season would be $2.627 million. While this seems like a hefty paycheck, it’s only slightly higher than what the Steelers chose to use on Marcus Allen last year in the same position. So while it would be better for the Steelers to perhaps lock in Pierre for two years for a more team-friendly amount, hearing them offer the tender would not come as a shock. Used primarily as depth on defense as he did not see the field until Week 5, Pierre is also a significant contributor on special teams. Additionally, Pierre did come through late in the year when called upon. According to Pro Football Reference, Pierre only surrendered one touchdown in 2022 and gave up 13 completions on 31 targets for only a 41.9% completion rate. While these numbers look impressive, most Steelers fans know Pierre has done much better in reserve and specific package duty than being a full-time starter. Whether it be on a restricted free agent tender or with a new contract, the Steelers generally value a player like Pierre to help fill out their roster.

Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:

Kenny Pickett & Mason Rudolph
George Pickens & Miles Boykin
DeMarvin Leal & Larry Ogunjobi
Connor Heyward & Zach Gentry
Mark Robinson & Devin Bush
Jaylen Warren & Benny Snell Jr.
Calvin Austin III & Derek Watt
Najee Harris & Terrell Edmunds
Pat Freiermuth & Trent Scott
Dan Moore Jr. & Jesse Davis
Isaiahh Loudermilk & Chris Wormley
Tre Norwood & Damontae Kazee
Pressley Harvin III & Marcus Allen
Kendrick Green & J.C. Hassenauer
Alex Highsmith & Malik Reed
Kevin Dotson & Tyson Alualu
Ahkello Witherspoon & Cam Sutton
Myles Jack & Robert Spillane
Minkah Fitzpatrick & Karl Joseph