Steelers Decision To Sign Wallace Means They Didn’t Consider Malecki A Capable Backup Center

Like many of you, I was pretty shocked when the Pittsburgh Steelers signed offensive lineman Cody Wallace and waived John Malecki on Sunday. However, after going back through some of the preseason games of both players and doing some research, I feel that I now have better understanding of why the move was made.

While Malecki did play much better than I expected him to do during the preseason, you have to remember that he is not a natural center and on top of it all, he is an undersized offensive lineman by NFL standards. Wallace, on the other hand, is a natural center and at 6-4, 300-pounds, he has the build and measurables of an NFL interior lineman.

When Malecki first arrived at the University of Pittsburgh in 2005, he originally played defensive tackle and didn’t make the move over to the offensive side of the ball until 2008. Once he made that move, he only played right guard for two seasons.

When Malecki was signed to the Steelers training camp roster in August of 2011, the team started the process of teaching him the center position. While he did manage to stick around on the practice squad for a couple of seasons, he really didn’t receive extended playing time over the ball in preseason games until this year.

While Malecki is certainly one to be considered an overachiever, new offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. wasn’t shy about talking about his weaknesses in an August interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

“More than anything it’s his size and strength,” Bicknell told the paper.

Malecki measured in at his 2010 Pro Day at just under 6-2, and he weighed 298 pounds. While I don’t have his actually measurements, Malecki does not possess long arms or big hands.

Wallace, who was originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, had actually been on the Steelers radar prior to that draft as Ed Thompson of reported back in March of 2008 that the scrappy Texas A&M product had a pre-draft visit to Pittsburgh lined up that year. Whether or not he ultimately made that visit, I do not know.

While at A&M, Wallace was a three-year starter at center for the Aggies and Rimington Trophy finalist to boot. As for his strength, Wallace was a standout power-lifter in high school, and he did 26 reps of 225 pounds at the 2008 NFL Combine.

When you watch his game tape, you can tell that Wallace is much more comfortable at center than he is at guard, so he definitely will need to improve his position flexibility with the Steelers. However, being as Kelvin Beachum figures to be the first lineman off the bench should either David DeCastro or Ramon Foster go down with an injury, Wallace will be the backup to Maurkice Pouncey at center until the Steelers Swiss Army Knife lineman can master that position as well.

In the end, Malecki wasn’t viewed by the Steelers as a legitimate backup to Pouncey, so that is the reason why they went out and signed Wallace, who they think is. Let’s just now hope that we never have to find out just how good of center Wallace actually is or can be.

  • Jason

    I won’t claim to have any knowledge about Wallace’s game compared to Malecki but it’s nice to see we are trying to make moves to somehow improve the awful depth of this offensive line. Frankly, Wallace couldn’t play much worse than twitter king Pouncey this preseason.

  • Jason Brant

    Nice analysis, Dave. Sheds a little light on the otherwise confusing move.

  • Shea Fahr

    The move makes sense now. It would have been really nice if he was RT capable as well.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    It still doesn’t make sense. If Malecki was never seen as a capable C then why are we wasting our time with him in camp and putting him on the roster? Their size seems very similar and I could careless what Wallace did in college because he can’t do it in the pro’s or else he would not be a FA. Steelers have said that they do not make a move like this unless it is a defineable upgrade so I trust them but from everything I have heard it is not.

  • treeher

    How the game has changed. A guy 6’2″ and 298 is considered “too small.” I have to laugh to think that Joe Greene was 6’4″ but only 275, and Mike Webster was 6’1″, 255, etc, etc.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    Still would like to see improvement within our draft and UDFA signings though, this is other “vision being shot”, to put this in consideration we have more bust with our draftees for O-line, that we now have to find a free agent to fill the void. That’s bad, especially for Steelers’ standard.

    I expect us to draft at least 2 O-linemen in next draft, wouldn’t be surprised if its 3 even.

  • Shea Fahr

    Because Wallace is more of a natural Center than Malecki. They are pretty much neck and neck as far as playing Guard goes. There are some huge NT’s that the Steelers face and I guess the Steelers feel that Malecki does not have the physical arm length, hand size, reach, strength or natural Center ability to handle it. It was probably a tough decision cause they had to love Malecki’s workmanlike mentality and so did I. All in All, they both are unproven so we will see but like Dave said, hopefully we won’t have to this year.

  • Michael

    As of today at 4 they can move Spaeth to injured reserve/designated-to-return list which means we can add someone to the roster. Could be another CB or maybe they bring back Malecki as extra OL. I like addition of Wallace as he gives them depth at Center which they really didn’t have. I watched Wallace play at A&M, he is very solid. I still don’t get keeping Wimper over Malecki though with Beachum on the roster.

  • cencalsteeler

    Well, Dave. That puts things into perspective. I wonder if he has experience in the ZBS.

  • Jason

    But if you look at our line. Adams was a highly ranked tackle who slipped to the 2nd round mostly because of character concerns. He now seems to have his character in check he just can’t block quality ends and linebackers. Foster is pretty solid for an undrafted FA. Pouncey was the unanimous pick as best center in the draft who frankly has underachieved since his rookie year. DeCastro will be very good. Gilbert was a second rounder who I honestly had no opinion of at the time but seems to be heading toward “bad pick” status. My point is, at the position we got these players I’m not sure anyone was complaining with the pick at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I agree with you that if this line doesn’t improve quickly it will have to be addressed in the draft.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Excellent article, Dave. I did not know about the pre-draft visit.

    Do we have any idea if Wallace can be a back up long snapper?

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    I’m right there with you. They could be waiting to upgrade Whimper (with a tenured veteran) until after the 1st game so they don’t have to pay the entire years salary guaranteed? Or they could be looking to sign an “extra” one at 4pm today? Either way I expect Whimper (and Palmer) will not be here long.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I love the potentials of our O-line but its taking THIS long when it shouldn’t be. Its still not completed that’s what bothering me most, since 05′ we have whiffled a lot more on O-line than any other position (arguably cornerback position were in much worse situation since 2000’s but still)

  • JT

    Michael – I hope you’re right…..Whimper needs to be gone ASAP. He is a bum and was never deserving of a roster spot. I’m not sure why the Steelers even wasted their time bringing him in….

  • TxSteeler

    Well he was with the Texans, 49ers and lions and I know a couple of those teams run zone blocking. Read a report on him that said he would be a solid fit for that type of offense. I reckon we’ll see.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Whimper is here and Malecki is not because they need two backups who can play tackle. I can see Malecki being brought back with the Spaeth move, however, and that would allow Whimper and Beachum to focus on tackle, although Beachum will still likely be the primary backup on game days at every position but center.

  • Blake Doran

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Shannon. If Malecki was not capable, they wouldn’t have kept him around this long. He had a great preseason and I think most people (including myself) were surprised by how much he’s improved over last year.
    I also think it makes no sense when people talk about what they did in college. Wallace is in his late twenties – he’s been out of college for a long time. His stats back then mean nothing.
    Nothing about this move is an upgrade – I’m still baffled by it.

  • JC Chuta

    We’ve already signed several other team’s rejects. Hummmm ….. I hope they know what they’re doing. Ravens are not going to be that good this year (heck, they weren’t very good last year and I was shocked they won the SB!) Bengals will find ways to loose and Browns are not there yet. Soooo….it is open for Steelers to get their act together and compete! Note: Denver the only team I see as a “potential” powerhouse” with the Colts a distant second!

  • cencalsteeler

    I also caught in Mikes pc that he said he has quick feet which is a plus

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Dave did do a good job going over the arm length and all the other physical attribute and that is understandable just not sure by what Wallace has accomplished that it is much of a upgrade.