Movie Theater: Levi Wallace is what Pittsburgh is looking for at CB

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As reported Tuesday afternoon, CB Levi Wallace agreed to a two-year, $8 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers on day two of the legal tampering period. While not all offers may become official until the league’s new year officially begins at 4:00 p.m. EST this Wednesday, all signs point to Wallace becoming the Pittsburgh Steeler’s newest high school member. With that, here’s a breakdown from the movie theater highlighting the strengths and weaknesses Wallace brings to the table as a new member of Black and Gold.

Good

– Has experience playing both sides of the pitch in off-man, zone and press coverage
– Clever defender who looks to maintain leverage in the area, being in position to break on passes
– Smooth enough in its transitions from a coaster to turning and running with the receivers vertically
– Does a good job playing through the hands at the catch point of the receiver
– Can trigger a downgrade on underpasses, snapping on the ball to undermine the route of a PBU or INT
– Voluntary tackler who likes to stick his fan in the race support
– Fairly solid synthetic tackler who places the ball carrier on the ground
– Understands route concepts and will play through the receiver’s shoulder to challenge passes
– Has the ball skills to take the football away, playing the ball in the air like a catcher
– Lots of starting experience which is battle tested after playing second fiddle to Tre’Davious White

The bad

–—Long speed and below average acceleration
– May struggle to recover with high level athletes in the field if stacked early
– Needs better work turning head to locate soccer ball
— Often slips in his transition from a coaster or when trying to lean on receivers in coverage
– Has noticeable balance issues when shifting weight
– May struggle to quickly change direction in space against nuanced road runners
– Willing tackler, but too often lets his feet and legs loosen on contact, allowing him to be dragged by stronger runners
– Should do a better job trying to throw blocks on the perimeter in running support or against screen passes

Before you watch the tape, it’s easy to imagine Wallace becoming a fan favorite in Pittsburgh in no time for anyone reading his story. He didn’t even start on the Tuscaloosa football team but instead played intramural football in Alabama before joining the football team. Meanwhile, his father, Walter, was battling ALS but encouraged his son not to give up on his football dreams and try to join the team. His father eventually passed away, but Levi remained dedicated to the sport his father talked him out of and dedicated the season to his father’s memory.

Wallace earned a scholarship and began his final season for the Crimson Tide in which he won the 2018 CFP National Championship Game. Despite being a starter for Alabama, Wallace ended up not being drafted in 2018 and signed as a UDFA with the Buffalo Bills. He got his first start in November 2018 where he never gave up the starting role, starting all 52 games he played in the last four seasons, totaling 219 tackles (171 solo), seven TFL, 30 PBU, six INTs, and one fumble recovered. Considering his backstory and how far he’s come so far, Wallace is a really easy guy to cheer for.

Male Blanket

Ok, now it’s time to get objective and break down Wallace’s tape. When it comes to coverage, Wallace has experience playing both sides of the court in off-man, press man, as well as various zone coverage looks. He can play trap or track technique and isn’t shy about practicing with receivers on the line if asked to do so. He has the length and transition skills to carry receivers vertically on the sideline as we see on this rep against Chase Claypool last season, forcing incompletion on an under ball thrown by Ben Roethlisberger.

Here’s another example against Pittsburgh where Wallace carries James Washington vertically down the right sideline, positioning himself to play football as he catches Ben’s pass while battling for position with Washington for the pick.

Wallace isn’t the fastest defender (4.63 40 out of college), but he has decent recovery speed and will play in the receiver’s back pocket, staying in position to play the ball and challenge the pass. Watch this rep against JuJu Smith-Schuster where Wallace follows him across the field on the drag road, staying right behind him and plays into JuJu’s hands as the ball comes in to force the PBU.

Wallace is confident enough to play on an island and is ready to cover the best receivers in the game without fear. He has a good understanding of course concepts and can break on the course in front of him to reverse the pass as seen on this break against the Jaguars.

However, Wallace may struggle to transition sideways and change direction against sharp runners. He also needs to do a better job of being able to locate the ball in the air at times to ensure he is in position to challenge the pass. Watch this play against Diontae Johnson where Wallace gives Johnson an outside out in the back corner of the end zone where he raises his hand but fails to knock the ball down as Johnson goes down with a circus hold for the TD. Wallace isn’t in a terrible position here, but could still play with better spatial awareness to force incompleteness.

Wallace also went viral after the game against the Steelers due to what Johnson was doing to him running-wise. He can struggle to find balance in his transitions, which causes him to slip when he moves forward at times, much like that rep who floated on Twitter after the game attributing Johnson’s route running, but in the same breath doing Wallace no favors.

Another key weakness Wallace has in coverage is his lack of speed and his ability to recover against dynamic receivers who can walk away with him in coverage. He will fight to stay in position, but as I mentioned earlier, there are physical limits to his game against athletic pass catchers. Here’s a good example from last season against the Chiefs where Tyreek Hill steps on Wallace on the road across the field, catching the pass as Wallace slides into cover again as he attempts to stumble over Hill who shows his cheetah speed down the sideline for the long catch-and-run TD.

Wallace plays his best ball when asked to play the ball in front of him, whether it’s off-man or zone coverage where he can read the QB’s eyes in the backfield and break the ball using his football IQ and instincts. Here is a good example against the Titans where Wallace breaks on the ball once the pass is thrown, tackles the receiver when the pass arrives and forces the incompleteness.

Area coverage

As mentioned above, Wallace has a knack for clicking and closing the football on underhand passes in both off-man looks and zone coverage. Here’s an example of Wallace breaking on the underpass, playing through the receiver’s hands to force incompletion.

Not only can Wallace force pass breakups in zone coverage, but he also has a knack for jumping the road and pulling the pass back as well. Here are some of Wallace’s interceptions during his career where he baits the QB to throw the pass and jumps the road to get the turnover for defense.

tackle

When it comes to tackles, Wallace is more than willing to stick his face in the range when it comes to running in defense as well as tackling into space on passes and underhand screens. He has no ill will throwing his body into the fray to get the stoppage on defense, having the behavior you want to see is an NFL cornerback. Signing Wallace makes sense due to the relationship between Sean McDermott and coach Tomlin which dates back to William and Mary where they played together as both coaches look for similar traits in their defensive backs who are fiery and can get away with each other. attack. Here is a complication of clips from Wallace showing the willingness to make tackles.

He is a sure tackler who will take receivers to the ground but also drop his feet and drag the ball carrier rather than running his feet on contact to prevent the YAC. Here’s another example of an open-field tackle against Diontae Johnson for off-man coverage where Wallace wraps him in space, but lets his legs go loose as he drags Johnson to the ground.

Conclusion

Overall, Levi Wallace is a smart corner who stays leveraged in the area and makes tackles. He can play both man and area coverage and does some of his best work off the ball where he can read, react and break on the football. Although not physically imposing, Wallace is a willing and capable tackler who wants to get involved. Still, he has several physical limitations to his game, including the playing strength to fight off blocks on the perimeter, the build to constantly challenge bigger receivers, the long speed to run stepping with burners on the outside. , and also the quick twitch to accommodate nuanced road runners when in man cover at the top of the road.

When you watch Wallace play, you see a player similar to what Pittsburgh recently introduced to their high school, including the names of Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, and previously Steven Nelson as guys who aren’t supreme athletes, but who are competitive at the point of capture, instinctive in coverage, and spirited in the run game. These are the qualities Tomlin has often sought out in his corners over the years, and Wallace seems like the next man in that regard. He’s probably in the best position to be a No. 2 CB on the outside in front of a real No. 1 guy who can take on the most physically imposing receivers you’ll see in the league.

Still, Levi Wallace is up for the challenge and playing like an underdog like he has been his whole life. He’s an easy guy to support, and for the money he signed, he’s probably a suitable replacement for Joe Haden who will be able to provide a game comparable to what Haden provided last season for Pittsburgh.

What do you think of signing Levi Wallace? Do you see him having an impact in the Steelers secondary? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below and thanks again for reading!

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