Mike Tomlin: Steelers CB Levi Wallace Comes with ‘Chip on His Shoulder’
If you think about some of the defining traits of Pittsburgh Steelers football, you probably think about tough, blue-collar, hard-working defense, and head coach Mike Tomlin thinks the Steelers have all of that in newly acquired cornerback Levi Wallace.
Wallace joined the Steelers on a two-year free agent contract after spending his first four NFL seasons as a starting cornerback for the Buffalo Bills, despite going underrated in the 2018 NFL Draft.
He went undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft, but signed a three-year undrafted free agency deal with the Buffalo Bills. He was cut and sent to the practice squad during the final round of roster cuts that preseason, but became a starter midway through the season after the team cut Philip Gaines. In seven starts that season, he became the highest graded rookie cornerback by Pro Football Focus and the fifth highest graded overall cornerback with a 83.5 grade.
“I think he has a definitive chip on his shoulder,” Tomlin said in an interview with Missi Matthews. “I’m attracted to that. Here’s a guy that’s a fighter. He’s a competitor. I just love his story and his background. He had to fight in Tuscaloosa. He won that fight and assumed a starting role, and a significant role on some great teams down there. Then he had to fight again once he came to the National Football League and won that battle.”
Wallace has had to prove himself every step of the way in his career. He first walked on to the University of Alabama in 2014, but didn’t see playing time until he earned scholarship as a junior in 2016. He only appeared in six games that season, but earned a starting cornerback position with the team as a senior in 2017. That season, he started 14 games including Alabama’s 2017 National Title victory over Georgia. He had 48 tackles and three interceptions as a senior.
“A guy that’s been a fighter,” Tomlin said. “A guy that’s faced adversity along the way, I just think we all grow from it. I love the edge that gives him and I love the edge that potentially brings us.”
Wallace is expected to start alongside Cameron Sutton and recently re-signed Akhello Witherspoon, replacing Joe Haden in the Steelers’ secondary from 2021.