Pittsburgh Steelers backup safety Will Allen is likely to spilt playing time with fellow safety Ryan Mundy Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans with Troy Polamalu once again sidelined with a calf injury.
Allen has played just over 275 snaps over the course of the last 4 seasons with most of his contributions coming on special teams. The rotation of both Mundy and Allen is a result of sub par play thus far by Mundy and the need to keep both players fresher, as Mundy is also a huge special teams player as well.
Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said on Tuesday that he sees both Mundy and Allen as pretty much the same player.
"I’ve always looked at those two safeties, Will and Ryan Mundy, as the same person, two veteran safeties that can go in there and play either safety," LeBeau said. "Really, a large degree of our success in recent years has come from those two guys having the depth and providing quality depth for us. Ryan Clark has missed some games, Troy has missed some games, and those two guys have stepped in there and I look at them both as the same player. We’ll readily use both. We will need them both."
On Tuesday Allen addressed the fatigue factor of both he and Mundy playing special teams. "I don’t know if there are a lot of starters that do full-time special teams," said Allen. "It’s a tough job. You get fatigued. Playing special teams is all out every play. Then you have to give your best on defense. We will see what happens and leave it up to the coaches to figure out the rotation or whatever it’s going to be."
How much playing time that Allen actually receives in Thursday night might ultimately depend on how well Mundy plays early on in the game. Through the first four games of the season Mundy has allowed 3 of the 8 passing touchdowns thrown against the Steelers and opposing quarterbacks have completed 75% of the 12 passes thrown his way. In addition, Mundy was flagged for a personal foul in the win over the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday when he hit Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in the head.
It isn\'t known yet if Mundy will be fined yet for the hit, but if he is, it would be his second one of the season as he was fined $21,000 for knocking out Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey with a helmet-to-helmet hit two weeks ago.
However the rotation works out Thursday night, neither Allen or Mundy will be able to fill the shoes of Polamalu, but of course not many safeties in the league would be able to either. Polamalu, when healthy, is like having a 12th man on defense and that goes without saying.
While the long-term status of Polamalu is still up in the air, it would be a good bet that he misses the week 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals and possibly more after that. The play of both Mundy and Allen will be zeroed in on over the next several weeks, especially if the Steelers should wind up losing any of these upcoming games with their star strong safety sidelined.
"You never know who is going to get hurt or what is going to happen," Allen said on Tuesday. "It’s the same preparation, just a little more attention to detail especially since it’s on a short week."
Short week or not, attention to detail is something that the Steelers team as a whole has lacked through their first four games of the season and that needs to change Thursday night. If not, the Titans, who are a very desperate team right now at 1-4, might just detail the Steelers their third loss of the season.