Steelers veteran CB Levi Wallace takes pending free agency in stride

In the hours between the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ playoff loss in Buffalo and when Levi Wallace went to bed the night of Jan. 15, Wallace already had turned his attention to non-football matters.


“Now that it’s over,” Wallace said Jan. 16, “I was already sending out messages yesterday and getting ready for this golf tournament that my foundation has.

“You, obviously, want to keep playing and make it to the Super Bowl, but that’s, unfortunately, not our reality. So I turn my attention to where I can help in the community and how I can be there with my family.”

Wallace planned to return to the Tucson, Ariz., area where he grew up and still makes his home. Also there are the headquarters for The Levi Wallace Foundation, an organization started three years ago for which his mother serves as president and a board of directors can run while Wallace is busy in the Northeast plying his trade as an NFL cornerback.

“We give away scholarships, but we also pour into the community,” Wallace said, lighting up at the opportunity to discuss his philanthropic endeavor in lieu of discussing the end of the Steelers season. “Just try to help kids go to college that are less fortunate than most people are, especially coming from Tucson where it’s just low-level income all around. We try to just make as many opportunities to send kids to college and get them experiences.”

The foundation and its fund-raising Levi Wallace Golf For Good outing will take Wallace’s focus away from football until it is staged March 2 in Phoenix.

Nine days after that — unless he and the Steelers agree to a contract extension prior — Wallace will become an unrestricted free agent for the second time in his career. The 6-foot, 179-pound Wallace just completed a two-year, $8 million contract.

He takes pending free agency in stride.

“It’s just the business, you know what I mean?” Wallace said. “You sign a contract, the contract ends, free agency comes up.”

A lot has changed in Wallace’s position room since he signed in Pittsburgh. Gone are then-starters Cameron Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon, replaced in 2023 by Patrick Peterson and Joey Porter Jr. And with Porter’s ascension this past season came Wallace’s demotion from every-down starter at outside cornerback to subpackage defender by December.

Wallace, though, showed value when he again became an every-down outside CB over a regular season-ending three-game winning streak after Peterson moved to safety to address attrition at that position.

Peterson will be 34 next season, and he might be moving to safety on a permanent basis. If he does, the Steelers have no plug-in replacement at starting outside corner opposite Porter.

They could do a lot worse than Wallace, who will be 29 in June and has started 70 of the 82 games he has played over a six-year career that began with the Buffalo Bills.

Wallace actually had more interceptions and passes defended than Porter, tying for the team lead in each with two and 11, respectively, though Wallace being targeted more often than Porter (per Pro Football Focus) likely contributed to that and does not necessarily reflect well on Wallace.

But the Steelers don’t need someone to be better than Porter, their now-unquestioned CB1. What they need is a veteran to serve as insurance in case the likes of 2023 rookies Darius Rush or Cory Trice isn’t ready to step up.

Of course, just like coach Mike Tomlin said of Mason Rudolph, Wallace is a free agent, so he might find a better opportunity elsewhere for 2024.

If so, the Steelers got plenty for their $8 million over the 2022 and ‘23 seasons: a team-most six interceptions, 86 tackles, 24 passes defended in 31 games.

“The last two years with the Steelers have been really good under Coach T,” Wallace said. “It’s been a blessing to be in this locker room, and if I am on another team next year, I will be blessed in that way. If I am back here, I will be blessed in the same way to be able to play professional football.”

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