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Don't Sleep on Levi Wallace's Contract Year With Steelers

This could be a big year for the Pittsburgh Steelers' top cornerback.

After a career year in Buffalo, Levi Wallace signed a two-year, $8 million dollar contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers last offseason. With injuries derailing fellow cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon's 2022 season, Wallace was thrust into the starting lineup and was pretty solid throughout. An undrafted free agent out of Alabama back in 2018, Wallace has outperformed expectations from day one and continued on that track last season, notching a career-high four interceptions.

Wallace is the lone returning starter in the cornerback room which added several interesting pieces this offseason. Longtime Arizona Cardinals star Patrick Peterson was brought in early during the free agency period. Pittsburgh made headlines on draft weekend, selecting Joey Porter Jr. with the first pick of the second round. They also took Corey Trice Jr. with their final pick in the seventh round following his draft weekend fall over reported medical concerns.

Even after a productive first season in Pittsburgh, it's not considered likely that Wallace will be the recipient of a contract extension before the regular season opens. Cam Sutton was in a similar spot this time last offseason and played out the final year of his second contract with the team, securing a big-time payday with the Detroit Lions as a result of his efforts. Wallace surely hopes that his story has a similar ending, whether that be in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

Wallace finds himself in an interesting spot as he enters the final year of his deal. He's in the driver's seat for a starting spot on a defense that should be one of the best in the league, health permitting. But there will be plenty of competition in the room once the team begins their journey in Latrobe for training camp next month. 

Both rookie cornerbacks have the length and size that fits what Pittsburgh wants to do in press coverage. 

He's no stranger to competition, though. Wallace was a 0-star recruit coming out of high school, electing to take the hard route by walking on to Alabama. His first two seasons in college ended without him playing a single snap on loaded rosters. He grinded his way to earning a scholarship before securing a starting spot in his final season with the Crimson Tide.

Wallace has never been handed anything. There isn't much that sticks out about him athletically aside from his length. His 4.63 40-yard dash and 33-inch vertical jump ranked in the 10th and 13th percentile, respectively, amongst cornerbacks in the mockdraftable historical database. Wallace has never been the flashy option anywhere that he's been, but year after year, he seems to get the job done.

In a passing league where teams are desperate for cover guys, Wallace has proven himself to be a solid contributor in the right set of surroundings. Along with his ball skills, Wallace is comfortable in off-coverage with relatively smooth transitions downhill. He's also an improved tackler from his first couple of seasons in the pros, something that Pittsburgh has always valued more than most among their corners. 

He'll need another strong campaign in 2023 in order to fend off Joey Porter Jr. on the outside. After all, the Steelers didn't take the Penn State phenom 32nd overall to ride the bench for very long. It's also worth mentioning that if Peterson moves around as much as he has hinted at, there's a chance that we'll see that those three are on the field at the same time at a much higher rate than some might realize. 

At 28 years old, Wallace is directly in the prime of his career with a huge opportunity in front of him. An internally motivated Wallace could be a really good thing for a Steelers secondary which has to deal with a plethora of talented wide receivers within the AFC North. From the likes of Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Odell Beckham Jr and Amari Cooper - the division is full of talented playmakers on the boundary. 

All of the excitement over the Steelers' rookie corners is warranted but don't forget about Levi Wallace. 

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