When the season ended one of the more interesting decisions the Pittsburgh Steelers have to make in free agency involves reserve safety Will Allen. That story line got more interesting yesterday when news broke that the Steelers were working out former Lions safety Louis Delemas.
Capsule Profile of Will Allen with the Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers 2009 secondary, sans Troy Polamalu for all but four games, finished the season as a shell shocked unit that couldn’t get an interception even if opposing quarterback threw right to them. Literally. One of Mike Tomlin’s first moves that off season was to call down to his former player in Tampa Bay, Will Allen.
The Steelers signed Allen, and then watched him sit on the bench and play special teams during 2010 and 2011. That changed when it became clear that Ryan Mundy was in fact developing into a Myron Bell type safety – the exact type of hard hitting player that the Steelers once loved but that the NFL is legislating out of the game, unless they happen to play for Seattle.
With Allen entering the line up, the Steelers defense improved tremendously. Nonetheless, the smart money behind Will Allen’s 2013 free agent profile pegged him as one of the players the Steelers could get back if they wanted him back. Dallas however, thought differently, and signed Allen, only to cut him 4 games into the season.
The Steelers wasted little time in bringing Allen back, and Allen vindicated their confidence coming up with a key interception in the game vs. Detroit, and otherwise helping bring stability to the secondary.
The Case for Keeping Will Allen
Will Allen’s value to the team was clearly underestimated. Its possible that the team planned to bring him back in 2013 but could not for salary cap reasons, management clearly did a double take.
The Steelers do need to get younger at safety, but behind Shamarko Thomas and Troy Polamalu, the Steelers have little proven depth. As last year’s experience showed, the Steelers cannot take Allen’s availability for granted, but by the same token no team is going to throw gobs of money at Allen.
The Case for Letting Will Allen Walk
Assuming no other team over prices the services of Will Allen, the case for letting him go still comes down to simple mathematics. But those mathematics are more about age and 40 times than dollars. The Steelers defense started 3 rookies last year but still was among the league’s oldest. And the secondary was what was dragging that average up.
Clearly the Steelers will not and should not make decisions solely based on age, but with Troy Polamalu also approaching his “Life’s work” safety has to be a priority for the Steelers. Robert Golden’s value is still more measured in potential rather than production, but he is no rookie either.
The renewal process must begin in the secondary, and many potential paths can easily exclude keeping Allen.
As with every player there are legit pro’s and cons to keeping Will Allen or letting him walk. But in the final analysis Will Allen still offers a lot of good value and experience at what must certainly be a cap friendly price. Ryan Clark is all but certain to be gone.
Should something happen to Troy Polamalu, do Mike Tomlin and Dick LeBeau what the Steelers safety slots manned by Shamarko Thomas and Robert Golden?
Probably not. And the insurance against such a possibility comes in the form of Will Allen.