Levi Wallace

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Jones, Ravens

A bit of a controversy developed in Pittsburgh this week. Mitch Trubisky and Diontae Johnson engaged in a shouting match during halftime of the Steelers-Jets contest, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes, adding that this provided the impetus for Trubisky’s benching. Mike Tomlin did not confirm or deny a shouting match between the quarterback and the team’s highest-paid wideout ensued, though Johnson essentially confirmed a football-related argument took place. But The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly adds the dispute was not the deciding factor in the 16th-year coach moving to Kenny Pickett for the second half of that game. Johnson wanted more targets from Trubisky in that Week 4 game, Dulac adds, leading to the team’s original starter standing up to the fourth-year receiver.

Tomlin benched Trubisky primarily due to his underwhelming performance during the season’s first month, with Kaboly adding he had already decided to go with Pickett. Trubisky sat throughout Week 5 but played well when reinserted into Pittsburgh’s lineup following Pickett’s Week 6 concussion. Despite a bounce-back relief effort against the Buccaneers, Trubisky is set to return to the bench. Pickett cleared concussion protocol Friday and is in line to start against the Dolphins, Tomlin said. Levi Wallace and Pat Freiermuth also cleared the protocol, arming the Steelers with key starters.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • It looks likely Deion Jones will make his Browns debut Sunday. The team held off from activating the recently acquired linebacker from IR last week, giving the longtime Falcons starter more time after designating him for return. Jones is progressing fast in Joe Woods‘ defense, per linebackers coach Jason Tarver (via cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot, on Twitter). Tarver said Jones could be in position to wear the green dot, signifying headset communication, in the near future. The Browns, who lost Anthony Walker to a season-ending injury in Week 3, acquired the six-year Atlanta cog for merely a 2024 pick swap.
  • Cleveland will be without multiple Pro Bowlers against Baltimore, however. The Browns ruled out Wyatt Teller and Denzel Ward for their divisional matchup. Teller is battling a calf strain, while Ward will miss a second consecutive game due to a concussion he suffered in Week 5.
  • Ben Powers has operated as the Ravens‘ left guard this season, winning a training camp competition. While 2021 third-round pick Ben Cleveland was nominally in that battle, Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletic notes the younger Ben in this matchup did not mount a serious push at winning the job opposite Kevin Zeitler. The Ravens have been frustrated with Cleveland’s inability to practice consistently due to injuries, Zrebiec adds. Cleveland missed the first week of training camp due to a failed conditioning test and has missed the past two games due to a foot injury. The Ravens did see Cleveland return to practice Thursday. Cleveland, who started four games last season, has not played an offensive snap this year. Baltimore was holding a three-player competition for the job Powers won. The third entrant, Tyre Phillips, is now with the Giants.

Steelers Rule Out Minkah Fitzpatrick, Top 3 CBs For Week 6

Mike Tomlin‘s .500-or-better streak is facing perhaps its biggest threat yet. After the Steelers’ 38-3 loss to the Bills, they will be without nearly their entire starting secondary against the Buccaneers.

Pittsburgh ruled out Minkah Fitzpatrick with the knee injury he sustained in Buffalo and will also sit cornerbacks Cameron Sutton, Ahkello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace against Tampa Bay. Hamstring injuries will sideline Sutton and Witherspoon, while Wallace suffered a concussion against his former team. Starting safety Terrell Edmunds missed Week 5 with a concussion but practiced fully all week.

Since the Steelers acquired Fitzpatrick from the Dolphins in September 2019, they have only been without him in one game — due to COVID-19 last season. Fitzpatrick played 96% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps last week. The team rewarded its two-time All-Pro this summer with a four-year, $72.99MM extension. The team re-signed Witherspoon and added Wallace — each on low-cost contracts.

Sutton and Wallace played against the Bills, while Witherspoon will miss a third straight game. The team started Arthur Maulet in place of Witherspoon in Buffalo; James Pierre is the team’s only other healthy corner on the 53-man roster. Former second-round picks Josh Jackson and Quincy Wilson reside on Pittsburgh’s practice squad, which houses four corners. Duke Dawson and second-year UDFA Mark Gilbert are on that 16-man P-squad. Still, this creates quite the advantageous spot for Tom Brady and his receiving corps.

The Steelers rank 30th in total defense and 26th in points allowed. They started 1-3 last season and began 1-4 during Ben Roethlisberger‘s 2019 injury season but rallied back to .500-or-better marks in each year. The only season in which the Steelers sat four games under .500 during Tomlin’s tenure came in 2013, when the team rallied back to 8-8.

Steelers Notes: Wormley, Leal, Wallace

Going into the 2021 NFL season, Steelers defensive tackle Chris Wormley had 3.5 career sacks from his time in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. After a fractured ankle landed nose tackle Tyson Alualu on injured reserve, Wormley took advantage of the increased playing time and broke out with seven sacks, good for third on the team behind T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward. He also reached career-highs in total tackles (51), tackles for loss (six), and quarterback hits (10).

Despite Wormley’s breakout season as a starter, the arrival of defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi could force Wormley back into a reserve role, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. Pittsburgh will likely rely on Ogunjobi to be a more well-rounded lineman, as Wormley tends to lose battles off the snap on running plays. The Steelers defense allowed the most rushing yards of any team last season, and it looks like signing Ogunjobi is a move that will address that.

Here are a couple other notes from the Steel City’s roster breakdown:

  • Rookie third-round pick DeMarvin Leal is another player that could limit Wormley’s playing time. Just as Wormley had spent time as an end with the Ravens and a tackle with the Steelers, Leal provides the versatility to play both inside and outside on the defensive line. If he can impress in camp and the preseason, I’d expect Leal to play more at the start of the season and for the Steelers to lean on Wormley more as the season wears on longer than Leal is used to from 12-game college regular seasons. Otherwise, giving him a bit more time to get adjusted while keeping him fresh for some late-season playing time could be extremely effective, as well. The combination of Leal and Wormley as versatile, athletic defensive line options gives Pittsburgh a couple of possibilities that could really help its defensive line depth.
  • With Joe Haden departing Pittsburgh for free agency, the Steelers have two cornerbacks who could potentially replace Haden as the starter opposite Cameron Sutton next season. 2021 trade acquisition Ahkello Witherspoon showed a ton of promise to end last season, totaling three interceptions and nine passes defensed in a six-week span. Pittsburgh will likely give him the opportunity to build off of that production for a full season. This leaves free agent signing Levi Wallace as the probable No. 3 cornerback to start the year for the Steelers. During spring practices, Sutton and Witherspoon lined up with the first-team defense on the outside in normal alignments, but, in nickel and dime packages, Sutton would bump inside and Wallace would come in on the outside.

Steelers Not Seeking Outside Additions At CB, DL

This offseason has seen a number of changes on the defensive side of the ball for the Steelers, leaving questions being asked at the cornerback and defensive line positions in particular. However, as detailed by Mark Kaboly of the Athletic (subscription required), the team is looking to internal options to fill important roles at those spots. 

The CB room includes, as Kaboly states, a number of complimentary players, such as a former third-rounders Ahkello Witherspoon and Cameron Sutton. The latter took on a much larger workload in 2022, playing over 1,000 snaps for the first time in his career. Pittsburgh also added former Bill Levi Wallace in free agency, giving them another consistent, starting-caliber member of the secondary.

The unit has lost a familiar face in veteran Joe Haden, who was reported to be on the way out earlier this offseason. On that point, Kaboly confirms that the Steelers “have shown no interest” in a reunion with the 33-year-old. Lacking an established No. 1 at the position, Kaboly reports that team nevertheless appears willing to “ride with what they have,” leaning on their elite pass rush.

Their front seven suffered a substantial loss as well, though, after the retirement of Stephon TuittThat leaves the team in need of a new starter along the defensive line, which should lead to an increased workload for Tyson Alualu. The 35-year-old played only two games in 2021 because of an ankle injury, but he has provided consistent rotational play throughout his career. Kaboly also names Chris Wormley as an incumbent in line for more snaps. The former Raven recorded a career-high seven sacks last year, but was also part of the reason Pittsburgh gave up a league-worst 146 yards per game on the ground. Recent draftees Isaiahh Loudermilk and DeMarvin Leal will feature in the d-line rotation as well.

This late in the offseason, the Steelers, like all teams, are essentially set at the top of their roster. While their defense still features the likes of T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick, internal progress will need to be made at the front and backends of the unit if it is to help lead the team to another playoff berth.

Steelers To Sign CB Levi Wallace

Levi Wallace is moving from Buffalo to Pittsburgh. The Steelers are adding the four-year veteran cornerback on a two-year deal worth $8MM, NFL reporter Jordan Schultz tweets.

This stands to aid a Steelers team that has Joe Haden unattached. While the Steelers gave Haden a second contract, the former first-round pick has now made it to free agency. It is somewhat interesting the Bills are letting Wallace walk for this price. The team will need to replace a four-year starter.

Despite entering the NFL as a UDFA, Wallace worked as a Bills first-stringer throughout his career. He played in all 19 Buffalo games this past season. The Alabama product should be expected to start for the Steelers next season. The Steelers reupped Cameron Sutton last year and used him as a full-time starter. He and Wallace represent a low-cost tandem, by 2022 cornerback standards.

Wallace, 26, has six career interceptions. More became asked of him last season, when Tre’Davious White suffered a season-ending injury on Thanksgiving night. While Buffalo’s secondary did not hold up well to close out the team’s infamous loss in Kansas City, the Bills did rank first defensively in the regular season. The 6-foot Wallace finished the regular season with his lowest figure for passer rating against (72.6).

Not typically big on unrestricted free agency, the Steelers have been fairly active this week. In addition to the Mitchell Trubisky addition, Pittsburgh has agreed to terms with James Daniels and now with Wallace. The Steelers also re-signed tackle Chukwuma Okorafor for nearly eight figures per year.

Bills Interested In Re-Signing Levi Wallace

The Bills face a number of tough decisions this offseason as they try to keep one of the league’s most complete rosters intact. One key piece to their league-leading defense is cornerback Levi Wallace, who is a pending free agent. As ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg writes, though, the Bills will look to re-sign him. 

[Related: Tre’Davious White On Track To Return In 2022]

Wallace joined the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He has started every game he’s appeared in since, however, proving his value to the team. He was counted on in the latter portion of this season in particular, after losing two-time Pro Bowler Tre’Davious White to a torn ACL in November.

Wallace stepped up in White’s absence, putting together arguably the best season of his career. He totalled 58 tackles, two interceptions and a personal-best 10 pass breakups. In coverage, he allowed a completion percentage of 58%, and a passer rating of 72.6, also the best mark of his NFL tenure to date. Overall, Wallace contributed to the Bills defense topping the league in both points (17) and yards (273) allowed per game in 2021.

When asked about the 26-year-old, general manager Brandon Beane said, “he’s a guy we’ll definitely talk to and would love to get him back if he wants to be back”. Even if White does return to full strength, both Wallace and backup Siran Neal are pending free agents, so Beane acknowledged that “cornerback is an area he would look at in free agency”. With the 25th pick in the draft, Buffalo could also be well suited to add a corner, given the depth of that position in this year’s class.

With Buffalo’s limited cap space, and other financial moves which need to be made – including with Stefon Diggs – Wallace could very well find better offers elsewhere. If the Bills are able to keep him, though, he would help the team maintain a highly productive CB tandem, and stay in Super Bowl contention.

Bills To Re-Sign CB Levi Wallace

Levi Wallace is sticking around Buffalo after all. The Bills announced that they’ve agreed to terms with the cornerback on a one-year deal.

It was a bit of a surprise when the Bills non-tendered the 25-year-old earlier this week. After all, Wallace had started 28 games for Buffalo over the past two seasons, including a 2020 campaign where he finished with 48 tackles, eight passes defended, and two interceptions. Wallace also started each of Buffalo’s three playoff games, collecting 12 tackles, one sack, and one forced fumble.

Despite being non-tendered, Wallace wanted to stay in Buffalo. The young corner did not consider any outside interest, according to NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter).

In total, Wallace has started each of his 35 career games, compiling 161 tackles, 20 passes defended, and four interceptions.

While the Bills have been busy adding players on the offensive side of the ball, they’ve mostly focused on retaining their defensive free agents. Specifically, the team re-signed linebacker Matt Milano to a four-year deal earlier this week.

RFA/ERFA Tender Decisions: 3/15/21

We’ve compiled a handful of tender decisions below:

  • The Cardinals are tendering linebacker Dennis Gardeck at a second-round value, which is worth around $3.38MM. The former undrafted free agent has spent his entire three-year career with Arizona, primarily appearing on special teams. However, the 26-year-old took on a bigger defensive role in 2020, finished with seven sacks in only 93 snaps. Gardeck tore his ACL late in the season, so his status for 2021 is in doubt.
  • The Chargers won’t be tendering defensive end Isaac Rochell, which comes as a bit of a surprise. The 25-year-old had a solid season for Los Angeles, starting six games while compiling 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks. Rochell has 9.5 career sacks and 12 QB hits in 51 career games.
  • The Packers have tendered wideout Malik Taylor, according to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). After spending much of his rookie season on Green Bay’s practice squad, Taylor managed to appear in 15 games for the Packers this past season. He ultimately hauled in five receptions for 66 yards and one touchdown. He also returned a pair of kicks and compiled three tackles.
  • The Bills won’t be tendering cornerback Levi Wallace, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter). However, there’s still a chance the 25-year-old lands back in Buffalo. The cornerback has started 28 games for Buffalo over the past two years, compiling four interceptions and 17 passes defended.
  • The Cowboys are tendering wideout Cedrick Wilson and nose tackle Antwaun Woods. Wilson has appeared in 22 games over the past two years, compiling 25 touches for 223 yards from scrimmage. Woods has started 32 of his 39 games for Dallas over the past three years, compiling 80, four tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.

Minor NFL Transactions: 11/19/20

Here are the most recent NFL minor moves:

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Placed on IR: CB C.J. Henderson

Kansas City Chiefs

Minnesota Vikings

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: FB C.J. Ham

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tennessee Titans

Josh Norman Tests Positive For COVID-19

Nov. 15: Luckily for Norman, he is asymptomatic, as Ed Werder of ESPN.com reports (via Twitter). Norman understands that he cannot play today due to league protocols, but he says he feels well enough to do so. The team hopes to have him back shortly.

Nov. 14: The Bills have run into a COVID-19 issue ahead of their trip to Arizona. Josh Norman tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the team, and this will result in at least four Bills not traveling for their Week 10 game.

Norman, cornerback Levi Wallace, safety Dean Marlowe and tight end Tyler Kroft landed on Buffalo’s reserve/COVID-19 list. The latter three players — deemed as high-risk close contacts — must isolate for five days.

As of now, Sunday’s Bills-Cardinals game remains on as scheduled. The team is set to travel to Arizona later this afternoon. Defensive assistant Leonard Johnson will join the aforementioned quartet of players in not making the trip to the desert.

This is not the first time Saturday news of a Bills positive test emerged to weaken one of their position groups. Dawson Knox tested positive for COVID-19 late last month, and the Bills placed two other tight ends on their COVID list that day. The NFL did not adjust the game time of the Bills’ rematch with the Jets. The league has not changed a game time because of COVID-19 since Week 7. With virus numbers skyrocketing around the country, similar challenges to the one that prompted the NFL to move a Bills-Titans game to a Tuesday night appear on the horizon.

Norman signed a one-year, $6MM deal with the Bills — one of several ex-Panthers to rejoin Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane in Buffalo this offseason — but began the season on IR. He returned for three games but has missed the past three due to a hamstring injury. He had practiced all week and was expected to return against Arizona, however. The Bills also recalled Wallace from IR earlier this season.

They will face the Cardinals’ No. 1-ranked offense with a depleted secondary. The team will promote some reinforcements, however. The Bills elevated Daryl Worley, Darron Lee, cornerback Dane Jackson, wide receiver Jake Kumerow and safety Josh Thomas from their practice squad.