What Does The Cody Wallace Signing Mean For Fernando Velasco?

After making their big free agency splash on day one by signing safety Mike Mitchell, the Pittsburgh Steelers got back to business as usual yesterday by signing some of their more unheralded reserve players to modest contracts.

Among those was interior offensive lineman Cody Wallace, of whom I and most others had many questions when the Steelers first brought him in at the end of the preseason.

Wallace responded by proving his doubters wrong over the final month of the season, after he was forced to take over the starting center position when Fernando Velasco tore his Achilles against the Baltimore Ravens.

Despite being drafted in the fourth round in the 2008 draft, Wallace’s career had been limited to 15 total snaps on offense before joining the Steelers. Even John Malecki, the lineman the Steelers replaced in order to add Wallace, had slightly more playing time than that in less seasons.

After getting his beak wet at guard in a few games, Wallace entered the starting lineup at center with four weeks to play. After going through some growing pains in the first two games, which included four penalties, he really settled down and showed well in the final two games of the season.

Much of Wallace’s tenure on the line, in fact, coincided with some of the most efficient and effective performances on the ground of the season, which culminated in Le’Veon Bell’s 100-yard game in Green Bay in the snow.

Most surprising was the nasty streak and physicality that of Wallace’s performance, which seemed unusual for somebody which such little playing experience in the regular season. Clearly he had no issue making his opponents understand that he belonged.

The Steelers obviously felt the same way, because they signed him to a contract spanning over the next three seasons.

So what does this mean for Velasco, and the chances of the Steelers bringing both of their emergency starters at center from last season?

I think that depends a lot on him.

Velasco came to the Steelers having already been a starter. He started every game for the Tennessee Titans in 2012, with 13 of those starts coming at center. He was somewhat of a surprise cut after Tennessee used free agency to address their offensive line. He was available after the first week of the season because he was looking for a starting opportunity, not because he couldn’t play.

Velasco is, of course, currently rehabbing an Achilles injury, so it’s likely that his market will be delayed, perhaps well into the summer, as was the case for Max Starks in 2012 when he tore his ACL and the Steelers waited to see how he recovered.

Velasco knows that with Maurkice Pouncey returning, he’s not in a position to start. And with Wallace already in the picture, he may not even be the first center off the bench. For as much as he loved the team and the city of Pittsburgh, I suspect that he’s still at a point in his career where he believes he is a starting offensive lineman.

On the other hand, by the time Velasco is ready to go, the Steelers should have access to the cap savings from LaMarr Woodley’s release, so if they really wanted him and were willing to sign him, they could afford to. Would it be worth it for a backup that may not even be the first off the bench for the interior of the line? Probably not.

While I’m sure the Steelers would like to have Velasco back, it will be up the him to be willing to accept minimum terms and a minimum role on the team this season, having made up their minds on Wallace.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Nolrog

    I don’t see any reason why they can’t bring Velasco back as well. He should come fairly cheap and Pouncy does tend to get injured.

  • dgh57

    You could sign him to a minimum deal and let him compete with Embernasty this preseason for a spot on the roster but the big question remains will he be willing to do that? I’m thinking not and that he wants to start or at least be the first guy off the bench. We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

  • Paddy

    Obviously Velasco didn’t impress the team enough to bring him back. He sure didn’t do anything except snap the ball without fumbling it

  • Steve

    Velasco is rehabbing from ACL surgery..Still may be resigned after the rehab is complete. Matt you forgot to add the prostate exam Cody gave last year on the bottom of the pile.

  • srdan

    I don’t know what hte circumstances of a starting center leaving the titans was, but I’d have to say that he is probably not Muchaks favorite player. And, he is coming of a major injury.

  • Steve

    Titans released Velasco,, wanting to resign him at a cheaper rate. Steelers beat them to the punch and snapped him up. Were at the right place at the right time.

  • srdan

    Steelers signed him after week one. That hardly seems like beating them to the punch. They didn’t want him.

  • Steve

    Titans loss was our gain.

  • Alan Felicia

    Correction – Velasco tore his Achilles tendon.

  • tim

    That was pretty dumb to say figuring he solidified the center position until he got hurt and I believe he can play up n down the line so he would be more than welcome back IF he’s healthy Im sure…

  • Nolrog

    Wow. Did you even watch the games? Picking up Velasco was one of the best moves they made last year.

  • CW

    We have no idea how well he’s rehabbing right now. Remember that his injury likely will take until early to midsummer to fully rehab. Which makes pursing him now pointless because he could rehab and have lost some step to his game or be completely fine, but no one is going to know until several months from now.

  • Mike Cardwell

    I thought Wallace was a better snapper than Velasco as well. Crisp cleans snaps to Roethlisberger were better than even Pounceys. In fact I would like to think Embernate might still be in the picture as well to make the team this year. Move Pouncey out to a guard position. With the quality of play from both Velasco and Wallace last year, Pouncey is being underutilized.

  • Thumper833

    I was thinking the same thing…Velasco/ Wallace at Center and Pouncey at LG. Probably not gonna happen, partly because I can’t imagine Pouncey would be happy with it.