The Pittsburgh Steelers have a bad habit of being overly loyal to veteran players. This isn't anything new, and it's something we have witnessed with this organization for years. Last week, the team finally ended the Gunner Olszewski experiment. This was long overdue as the veteran wide receiver and return man proved to be detrimental to the team since signing with the organization last offseason.
During his 18 games with the Steelers, Olszewski managed just 63 punt return yards on 9 attempts while recording a dismal 14.0 yards per kick return. On offense, Olszewski earned just 53 receiving yards during his tenure in Pittsburgh, and his only reception in 2023 went for no gain. He also fumbled the ball a whopping 4 times despite his limited usage.
Even though Olszewski has a reputation as a former First-Team All-Pro return man with the Patriots, the Steelers were finally willing to cut ties with him. They did this despite handing Olszewski a 2-year, $4.2 million extension during the 2022 offseason. Now they could give another veteran player the Olszewski treatment.
Steelers should treat Levi Wallace like Gunner Olszewski
There is very little question at this point when it comes to the biggest weakness on Pittsburgh's defense; it's at the right cornerback position. Levi Wallace has been a train wreck all year. Outside of a pair of interceptions that came on Sunday Night Football against the Raiders, his performance has been downright awful in 2023.
Early and often, Wallace has been exposed as the biggest soft spot of the defense. Prior to Pittsburgh's Week 7 win over the Los Angeles Rams, Wallace had already been credited for surrendering over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first five games this year, per Pro Football Reference. That number became even more cringe-worthy after watching him try to cover Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp.
Through the Steelers' first six games of 2023, Wallace has earned an overall grade of just 46.3 on the season, according to Pro Football Focus. This ranks 103rd among 115 qualifying cornerbacks in the NFL this year and is the lowest grade of his six-year NFL career.
The biggest problem with Wallace is his severe lack of speed and quickness. After rewatching the Steelers vs. Rams game, I cut up multiple plays in which Wallace was dusted off the line of scrimmage on slants and drag routes. This made for very easy completions for QB Matthew Stafford, and without any sort of makeup speed, these receivers were able to chew up yardage after the catch.
Fortunately, the coaching staff is finally starting to take notice of Wallace's ineptitude. For the first time ever, Joey Porter Jr. earned more defensive snaps in a Steelers game than Levi Wallace. This is a role that should never be reversed the other way.
In fact, Wallace has been so bad that the team might be able to cut him outright (just like they did with Olszewski). While some within the organization are sure to value his veteran leadership and experience, all that has combined to mean nothing as he remains arguably the biggest liability on the team.
When the Steelers do bench him for good, he will offer exactly zero value on special teams. At least a player like James Pierre can play on special teams and earn a few snaps here and there on defense. Quite frankly, the results might be better with Pierre on the field at this point instead of Wallace.
Like I said, Mike Tomlin and the organization have been loyal to veteran players to a fault, but Wallace's performance has been so bad that the Pittsburgh Steelers can no longer afford to deploy him on defense. He could eventually become a player who just sits and watches from the sidelines on Sundays, but perhaps the team should consider giving him the Gunner Olszewski treatment at this point.