Make no mistake, the Pittsburgh Steelers have a solid triumvirate at the center and guard spots with Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Ramon Foster. Pouncey has made three Pro Bowls, DeCastro looks primed to head to Hawai’i one day and Foster is a model of steadiness at his position.
Yet as we saw last season, a potentially strong starting lineup means nothing once the games are played and injuries occur.
Pouncey missed essentially the entire 2013 campaign with an ACL injury. DeCastro missed one start and was hobbled at times by an ankle issue. While Foster started all 16 games last fall, he had to come out for spells in two of them due to shoulder and head injuries.
I cannot give enough kudos to Velasco and Wallace for their work last fall, and both combined to start Pittsburgh’s final 15 games at the center position after Pouncey went down on opening weekend. Best of all, Wallace and Velasco turned in some solid performances during that stretch.
That is particularly amazing when one considers that Wallace was not even active on game days to start the 2013 regular season, and Velasco was signed off of the street in the aftermath of Pouncey’s injury. Heck, Wallace had not even started a game at the professional level until he was called upon in Week 14!
Due to their capable play, I for one would like to see the Steelers attempt to sign both players to new contracts during the upcoming offseason. Although inking unrestricted free agents (UFAs) will be no easy task for the cap-strapped franchise, bringing Velasco and Wallace back should be an absolute must for Pittsburgh’s front office.
It would not hurt the Steelers whatsoever to have the interior of their offensive line shored up for an extended period of time, and the fact that Velasco and Wallace have enough versatility to chip in at guard as well as center is a huge plus.
How much it would cost to secure both Wallace (2013: $630,000 base salary) and Velasco (2013: $715,000 base salary) is certainly a question. Yet I think that Pittsburgh’s brass would not have to shell out more than $1-$1.5 million in base salary per season to keep each backup under contract due to Velasco’s recent Achilles injury and Wallace’s relative inexperience.
Solidifying their depth in the offensive trenches will hopefully be an offseason goal for the Steelers. To meet that goal, it would behoove the front office to bring Velasco and Wallace back into the fold for at least one more season for insurance purposes.
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