By Matthew Marczi
It’s no secret that both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers had their fair share of success in the running game against one another, chiefly through their rookie running backs—Le’Veon Bell and Eddie Lacy, respectively.
The weather conditions, certainly, played a factor in not only the frequency with which both teams ran, but also the degree of success that they had. But it also speaks to some quality blocking up front. Steelers third-string center Cody Wallace had his best game so far in this regard.
It was Wallace’s block on inside linebacker A.J. Hawk late in the first quarter that led to the first of Bell’s explosive plays, bursting up the middle of the field for a 22-yard gain. Bell used his blocker well to move the linebacker to the left, allowing a large cutback to right of center. Wallace did a nice job of keeping the path clear.
Wallace displayed some surprising strength later on the drive as the Steelers were driving down the field and nearing the goal line. He took on nose tackle B.J. Raji one-on-one and was able to get some push, cutting off backside pursuit on a run to the right that helped set up the team’s first touchdown two plays later.
Later, on the next drive in the early portions of the second quarter, Wallace was tasked again with coming out to pick up the inside linebacker Hawk, which he was able to do, allowing Bell to squeeze past his back side for a five-yard gain.
Wallace helped the Steelers close out the first half with a field goal on a 10-yard run by Bell that put Pittsburgh in position for Shaun Suisham. He once again went up against Hawk, but this time the linebacker rushed at the snap and Wallace was forced to pick him up with a running start.
He did, however, and turned him easily out of the hole to allow Bell to get through for another first down. Wallace really had Hawk’s number on several occasions throughout the Steelers’ victory.
Overall, it was a nice showing for Wallace, who came into this season as a veteran reserve, having never started a game. He’s now getting a chance to acquire some real in-game starting experience for the first time in his career, and he’s been doing well with it overall, all the while adding to his value in free agency, whether that ends up in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.