By Matthew Marczi
Yesterday, I lamented over the fact that the recent rash of injuries suffered by four different offensive linemen would be a speed bump on the road to improved offensive line play, which had been on the rise in recent weeks.
Today, I’m left to lament the fact that the line just came to a detour.
Fernando Velasco, the street free agent that Pittsburgh was lucky to find to replace their All-Pro center after he was lost after just eight snaps, has now joined Maurkice Pouncey on the injured reserve list.
By and large, what Velasco brought to the field was fairly unremarkable. When he came to Pittsburgh, he was understandably graded on a curve, because it’s not often that you can sign a plug-and-play center off the street in-season. As absurd as it sounds, Velasco has played more snaps this year than any other Steelers lineman despite not being on the opening day roster.
That said, he brought stability to an offensive line room that could have been in disarray had they been forced to look for an answer in-house at the time. Can you imagine if the Steelers had played the past 11 games with Kelvin Beachum as the starting center? Would Mike Adams really still be at left tackle in that world?
Remember, at the time, they had just jettisoned John Malecki, who spent the last few years with the team and even played a bit in the season finale last year.
They did so in order to sign Cody Wallace, a veteran reserve center who had played less than 20 snaps in his career, and who in all likelihood will now be the anchor of the line for the rest of the season.
The drop from Pouncey to Velasco was notable. The drop from Velasco to Wallace? Well, we’re about to find out.
To be fair, the one aspect to Wallace that is appealing is that he is a natural center. Velasco was a guard in college and a tackle in high school. Malecki? Hell, he was a former defensive tackle. He later converted to guard and only learned the center position once he entered the league.
Wallace? He was a three-year starting center in college and played everywhere on the line in high school. He knows the position. He looks better there than at guard.
Earlier this season, when Wallace was forced to play first at left guard, then at right guard due to an absurd string of in-game injuries, I tried to take away the positives from his showing. He did display some good awareness in pass protection in limited snaps, but he also got humiliated against the run for a loss of five on another play.
Assuming he’s the guy (what other guy do they have?), I really can’t tell you what you’re getting, because he just doesn’t have enough tape. Maybe I’m a masochist, but color me curious.