If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Steelers General Manager Omar Khan in his short time at the helm it’s that he’s not afraid to be aggressive. At last year’s trade deadline, Khan authored one of the best recent moves in Steelers history — offloading WR Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for a second-round pick. That pick turned out to be number 32 overall, which just happened to be the first overall selection in round two. With that pick, the Steelers selected Joey Porter Jr., who has been arguably one of the top rookie CBs in the league this season, in limited playing time.
Claypool on the other hand, has just four receptions on 14 targets this year - and was traded to the Miami Dolphins a few weeks back.
This is a move that didn’t necessarily signal a “rebuild.” It was a trade of a player who was valued more by another team. I could see something similar happening again at this trade deadline.
I anticipate the Steelers will acquire a veteran to bolster the secondary, especially considering that Luq Barcoo and Darius Rush, two cornerbacks who have yet to receive a single snap with Pittsburgh, received first-team reps this week. Names like Broncos CB Patrick Surtain II, Bears CB Jaylon Johnson, and Titans CB Kristian Fulton have circulated among various trade speculators. If the black and gold are to make a splash move, it’s certain that they will be parting ways with draft equity. A way to recoup some of that equity is to part ways with someone who has fallen out of favor.
I think that player this year is CB Levi Wallace.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think this is analogous to the Claypool situation whatsoever. Claypool was reportedly disgruntled, and it never seemed like the Steelers were thrilled with his attitude. Wallace by all accounts is a great teammate and someone that was solid for them in 2022. According to Pro Football Reference, Wallace allowed just 41 receptions on 71 targets last season. Pro Football Focus ranked him as their ninth-best CB in passer rating allowed last year.
This season unfortunately has been a different story. In five and a half games, Wallace has surrendered four touchdowns and nearly 400 yards to opposing wide receivers. Wallace is also dealing with a foot injury and was limited in practice this past week. Wallace is also a free agent at season’s end.
All of these factors probably don’t make him all that appealing to opposing general managers, but I’d bet someone out there would look at his play last year and think a change of scenery can turn him into at least a semblance of the player he was in 2022 — a guy that can help a contender down the stretch. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t seem like it’ll happen in Pittsburgh.
I wouldn’t be shocked if the Steelers parted with a mid-round draft pick to acquire a cornerback who they feel will immediately help them. Right now, Wallace isn’t helping much. So, I speculate that Omar Khan could potentially wheel and deal to recoup a pick that may be utilized to acquire someone to essentially replace Wallace.
How would you feel about the team potentially moving on from Levi Wallace? Join our Behind The Steel Curtain community and let us know in the comments!