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Steelers OG Cody Wallace looks to be the 'next man up'

Starting LG Ramon Foster is questionable for the Steelers' Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers. Veteran Cody Wallace waits in the wings if Foster can't play.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Wallace knows the drill.

Work on limited reps in practice. Prepare for the game as if he's starting. Probably not play on anything but special teams.

He also knows the other side of it. A starter goes down and he enters the game at either guard or center (he played for an injured David DeCastro last season as well as center Fernando Velasco).

Wallace is in limbo this week, teetering on the edge of starting for injured left guard Ramon Foster. On the outside, it's unclear whether Foster will play. If he cannot, Wallace is likely the literal answer to the metaphorical "who's next?" question. He signed a three-year deal this off-season just for these scenarios.

Those are scenarios the Steelers know all too well. In the eyes of many, a starting offensive line that managed to play two consecutive games with their initial five starters all healthy is something of a shock. It can be considered a success in a small, despondent kind of way. But Wallace can, by some measure, be considered the team's sixth starter. He's the main back-up at three positions - left guard, right guard and center - perhaps leading the team in position-flexibility.

In other words, this is exactly why the team gave him a three-year deal - to be their main back-up.

ESPN's Scott Brown spoke with Wallace about his contract Friday."It gave me an opportunity to show what I could do for an extended period of time and give them the confidence that they can trust [me] for a game instead of just, 'Oh get us through the half,'" he said of the four starts he made in 2013. He hadn't started a game in his NFL career prior to the team's Week 14 game against the Miami Dolphins. "I think the coaches have a good feeling about me as a backup interior guy if they need to plug me in."

Facing a destructive Carolina Panthers defense, the Steelers' offensive line may not be challenged again this year by a more difficult opponent up front. Losing a starter heading into this kind of a match-up is disheartening but, with Wallace there, offers a glimmer of hope. He has been in this position before and has played well in these circumstances.

Facing a solid Dolphins defense in 2013 likely won't be the same as a dominant Panthers unit in 2014, but the height of the challenge has to be met by those looking to conquer it. Wallace can lean on the confidence from being here before, and he'll need to make it happen again.

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