By Matthew Marczi
It’s usually not a good thing when you’re forced to start your third different center of the season. It’s even worse when that third starting center—and fourth center overall—is making his first start in his professional career.
That’s the predicament the Steelers found themselves in with Cody Wallace this week, and no doubt there were times that he looked like a guy making his first start—though at other times he looked like a proctologist, except he is the one being ‘handed’ the bill for the examination.
Overall though, I must say that Wallace handled himself well given the circumstances, and most importantly, he didn’t look overmatched. He looked like he belonged out there, and he won his share of battles. That’s about all you can ask out of a guy making his first start 13 games into the season.
Obviously, it got off to a rough start for him, as he gave up a deep pressure/partial sack to nose tackle Paul Soliai on the second play of the afternoon. Soliai started off by charging his right shoulder, but then gave Wallace a wicked club with his right arm to blow by him. Wallace did what he could to hold on as Soliai pushed his way backward, though it was Randy Starks ultimately getting the sack.
It seemed as though it would be a long day from that point on but it did get better from there. It was certainly an ebb and flow affair. For example, later on the same drive he handled Soliai against the run on his own, allowing Le’Veon Bell to breeze by him for a nice chunk of yardage.
This play is not quite as impressive as it may first appear—as it looks like he gets a pancake on the nose tackle on a running play. It started off with a chip by Ramon Foster, and then Wallace worked Soliai up the back of David DeCastro, tripping over him, and actually injuring his ankle and forcing him to come out of the game. still, it’s a fine play for the center.
Unfortunately, the day ended as it began, contributing to another sack. Olivier Vernon crashed down inside hard as Wallace was monitoring the other inside rusher and was taken so off-balance that he got spun around.
That left DeCastro in a no-win situation, as Marcus Gilbert also got beaten by Cameron Wake. In the end he didn’t help on either as the two combined for a sack. Add in his two penalties and there’s enough of a story there to trash your new starting center. But it wouldn’t be the full story, nor would it take the circumstances into account. Let’s see what he does this week.