The Steelers secondary finished 2009 as a shell shocked unit unable to stop or make a big play. When something similar happened in 2002 the Steelers brass responded by maneuvering to bring in Troy Polamalu in the 2003 NFL Draft.
- In the winter of 2010 Mike Tomlin responded by dipping back into the secondary he’d coached down in Tampa Bay and signing safety Will Allen.
For two seasons the decision to bring Will Allen in as part of their mini-2010 free agent signing spree looked like one of the league’s all time ho-hum free agent moves. For two years Allen did little more than play special teams and do some limited spot duty at safety.
Allen remained an insurance policy as the Steelers focused on developing Ryan Mundy as Polamalu and Ryan Clark’s understudy. In any number of fan-based salary cap discussions during the 2012 off season, Allen was universally considered expendable.
However, you take out insurance policies to guard against unplanned events. And in 2012 the unplanned event was the dead end that Ryan Mundy reached in his development. (Click here for the Steelers 2013 Free Agent Focus article on Ryan Mundy.)
With Troy Polamalu ailing and Ryan Mundy wailing (sorry, couldn’t resist), Will Allen stepped in to start 7 games and in the process stabilized the Steelers secondary.
Although he wears 26, no one would ever confuse Will Allen’s ability to make the impact of a Deshea Townsend let alone that of Rod Woodson, but the Steelers defense got better as the season wore on, and Allen’s steady hand helped that.
- His best game, statistically, came vs. Washington where he defended 3 passes in an effort that shut down Robert Griffin III.
Now Allen is a free agent and he’ll be 31 before training camp. What should the Steelers do?
- Ideally they’d replace Allen with a younger player with the potential to develop into a starter. The Pittsburgh Steelers must inject youth at safety.
But that doesn’t mean that Allen won’t have a place on the 2013 Steelers. He’s not likely to field a lot of offers on the free agent market, and the Steelers likely have the luxury of making off season personnel moves at back up safety on their timetable.