By Matthew Marczi
Pittsburgh Steelers center Cody Wallace has been a nice surprise since an injury to Fernando Velasco thrust him into the starting lineup during the final stretch of the regular season.
Nobody really seemed to entirely understand why the team had brought him in after final roster cuts were made, but he’s answered a lot of questions in the last few games, and perhaps earned some fans.
Although he’s currently a free agent, having signed a one-year contract, I certainly believe he’s played well enough to earn a new contract in Pittsburgh, if not somewhere else. The Steelers could use the depth, especially with Maurkice Pouncey coming off an ACL tear about a year removed by the time the 2014 season starts.
The biggest thing we’ve learned about Wallace watching him play the last few weeks is that he’s got a nasty streak to him and isn’t concerned about who he’s going up against, because he believes that he belongs and can play with anybody.
That’s what you see here on this off-the-play block on Ahtyba Rubin. He antagonized Rubin so much that he earned a shove at the end of it. Last week it drew a penalty, though he wasn’t as lucky this week.
This running play late in the first quarter follows a similar theme. Though his block wasn’t directly in the ball carrier’s path, he none the less gave his full effort as he walked Rubin down the field.
Wallace’s block on nose tackle Ishmaa'ily Kitchen early in the second quarter helped free Le’Veon Bell for one of his biggest plays of the day on a 15-yard carry up the middle.
Generally, you don’t count on your third-string center to be able to handle a block on a nose tackle one-on-one, and this particular effort wasn’t the cleanest you’ll see, but he sealed off Kitchen enough to allow Bell to get through, and then he finished the block, which you always like to see.
Wallace smartly held close on this play, staying with defensive end Brian Sanford in order to seal off the alley for Bell, which resulted in a seven-yard carry up the middle. It looked like he was supposed to go out to pick up the linebacker, but when he went outside, Wallace did the right thing and stayed inside.