By Matthew Marczi
When Cody Wallace was forced into the game due to the injuries to Ramon Foster and Guy Whimper, it was certainly alarming—not simply because it meant the Pittsburgh Steelers were down two linemen, but also because we had never seen Wallace play before and did not know what he offered.
While he was not perfect—in particular, he was beat on one running play that resulted in a five-yard loss and failed to pick up a tackle-end stunt in pass protection—I actually came away from reviewing the game somewhat relieved. Overall, he did an acceptable job, and perhaps showed that, if necessary, he could be counted on to play. It is also worth pointing out that his natural position is center, and not guard. There were two successive plays on his first drive in the game that first piqued my interest. The first was a pass to Le’Veon Bell.
On the play, Wallace pulls from the left guard position—from the left side of the field—in order to block to the right on a pass play the other way. He shows fairly decent quickness here getting down the field, and he ultimately picks up the man Marcus Gilbert is trying to block, which was nearly enough to get Bell to the first-down marker.
It was not quite enough for the first down, however, which set up third and short. So what do they do? They load up with two tight ends to the right side and then run behind their third-string left guard. I found that somewhat surprising, but Wallace does a good job of clearing the lane for Will Johnson to get the block on the linebacker that gets Bell the two yards for a first down.
Of course, it was the very next play on which Wallace is beaten for a five-yard loss. On the following play, he first gets the angle to drive his man out of the lane, but he eventually recovers and helps bring Bell down from behind after six yards.
One play later, Wallace does a nice job of picking up a stunt, and, in fact, brings his man to the ground.
On this play, the left defensive end actually crosses all the way from outside the right tackle to the B Gap between Wallace and Kelvin Beachum. Wallace is already busy blocking the defensive tackle, with the help of Fernando Velasco. When he sees the end, however, he smartly comes off his block and gets him on the ground—with the help of Beachum’s feet, which the end trips over.
When I saw Wallace in the game, I must admit that I was not expecting him to do as well as he did, as on the plays above. I expected him to look out of his element, but he did not. Having such low expectations, however, anything above a failing grade would have been viewed favorably.