I was listening to Steelers Nation Radio Friday morning with Adam Crowley and Dale Lolley as they opened the rookie mini-camp in Pittsburgh. The discussion was on cornerbacks and as a great deal of the conversation was on current Steelers’ corner Cortez Allen.
For every Steelers fan that tells you Allen is better off being called “toast” there’s one who believes he will bounce back in 2015.
When I look at Allen’s game, I see some things I like and see some things I don’t. That’s problem normal with just about every player but let’s go back and re-visit Allen’s 2014 season first.
We should have seen his downfall coming as early as Training Camp in Latrobe. With the NFL adamant about its’ officials calling defensive backs much more closely, each team had officials attend their camps.
It was obvious early that Allen was struggling with the new attention to detail and it spilled over into the preseason where he was flagged for defensive holding or interference in each of the team’s preseason games.
Little changed as the regular season began. Allen struggled with his technique and his ability to cover without being flagged. It snowballed though and in my opinion it began to affect his other skills on the field.
His tackling, which had been pretty good, worsened. His ball skills in coverage, which have always been questionable, seemed to get worse. The phrase “he’s in position but never gets his head around” seemed to almost be a motto for Allen.
He would eventually lose his starting job and then saw his season come to an end due to an injury. The truth of the matter though is that he wasn’t going to get back on the field whether the injury had occurred or not.
So what is Cortez Allen facing as the 2015 season is now underway?
The first thing he has to deal with is not just two rookies in Doran Grant and Senquez Golson but also looking to take his starting spot is Antwon Blake.
That’s the physical side of it which I think Allen can deal with but what I’m concerned with is his mental state. As a cornerback in any level, the first thing you need to be great is a very short memory. Any corner, no matter how good, will give up big plays from time to time. How you bounce back is the real question.
Allen will have a physical advantage over all three of the competitors I mentioned simply because of his height but how far can that take him? If he hasn’t worked on his technique and if he hasn’t learned to react to the ball better, his size won’t matter.
How many times can we recall Allen being position to make a play yet he doesn’t get his head and hands around in time to make the play?
This is exactly what Allen can’t allow to keep happening. But his issues don’t stop there. As I mentioned previously, his tackling was thought to be another significant problem in his game and it was.
Allen will have his work cut out for him because Golson, Grant and Blake all tackle pretty well.
In a perfect world, the Steelers see Allen bounce back and become more than worthy of his hefty contract. In the process, Golson, Grant and Blake battle it out for the nickel spot.
In reality, any of those three better be ready to assume the starting role opposite William Gay if Cortez Allen can’t get his mojo back.