Steelers Will Reportedly Use CB Cortez Allen In The Slot In 2013

Thursday is final day of the Pittsburgh Steelers first OTA session of the 2013 season and on Wednesday Mark Kaboly of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review passed along a little nugget on Twitter about the secondary that\’s worth mentioning. Kaboly reported that the Steelers plan to use cornerback Cortez Allen in the slot on nickel downs in 2013, and that sounds like a solid plan.

Last season, Allen played well in the slot as Pro Football Focus has him logging 204 coverage plays at that position while only giving up 26 receptions in 43 times thrown at for 237 yards with no touchdowns allowed and one interception. That equates to a 60.5% completion ratio and an opposing quarterback rating of 65.7, according to their numbers.

As Kaboly pointed out in his tweet, Allen has the speed to cover slot receivers and the size to match up against tight ends when playing inside.

As a rookie in 2011, Allen got his first real test at playing the nickel role in the Steelers defense in the Week 8 game against the New England Patriots. While the Citadel product didn\’t shut down Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski in that game, he did hold him to just four catches on six targets for 44 yards and no touchdowns, which in my opinion, was a stellar performance.

With Allen believed to have that role in 2013, that means that fellow cornerback William Gay will more than likely come in and play outside when the Steelers use their nickel personnel. In 2011, Gay reportedly played 310 regular season snaps in coverage on the outside and allowed 25 catches in 48 times thrown at for 247 yards with two touchdowns allowed and one interception. That equates to a 52.1% completion ratio, a 5.15 yards per target his direction and a 72.1 opposing quarterback rating. Last season with the Arizona Cardinals, Gay didn\’t register numbers as good as that, so the hope is that a return to Pittsburgh in a more limited role will help him duplicate, or even better his 2011 stats.

While the above looks to be game plan in the secondary for the Steelers in 2013, they still will need a more improved pass rush than they\’ve had the last two seasons. It won\’t matter who plays where in the Steelers secondary if the opposing quarterback is allowed to sit in the pocket consistently.

While it might not have felt like it at times last season, the Steelers only allowed 3.3 yards per passing play on third downs in 2012 and that ranked them second in the league in that stat behind only the Denver Broncos. Just imagine how good the defense would have been last season had it provided more pressure on the opposing quarterback.

The Steelers allowed cornerback Keenan Lewis to walk off uncontested via free agency this past off-season because they are confident that Allen can fill his shoes as a starter. Gay was brought back because he fully understands the defense and because he can deliver roughly 500 snaps of playing time in the nickel personnel.

As long as the secondary can remain healthy, and as long as the pass rush can improve, I see no reason why the 2013 Steelers defense cant play at a championship caliber level once again.

  • steeltown


    People give Willie Gay a lot of grief, he has had some misreads in the past, but he had a very solid year in 2011 as starter opposite Ike Taylor before leaving for AZ

    I’m pretty confident in our starting CB’s, just need C.Brown to take the next step and Hawthorne to stay healthy and pick up the system as quickly as possible

  • alex

    good health and an improved pass rush, while were at it lets throw in defensive splash plays…

    there be some wild cards there…

  • Kenneth Wilt

    The cornerback I want to see take a step is Curtis Brown. I think he has the talent…see Lewis….to play effectively in this system, but hasn’t put it all together for any number of reasons. I hope he takes a step this year.

  • David Edward

    Brown is going to have to take a huge step up just to make the 53 man this year.

  • WilliamSekinger

    Sounds like a solid plan…unless they find themselves in their nickel package more often than their base package. That would be bad news.

  • I’d normally agree with you, and at this point Brown seems to be a bust, but do we really have another CB that can take his spot? Even with the additions of Gay and the Black Cat I just don’t see someone taking his job no matter how bad he is at it.

  • I really like the idea of him matching up against TE’s standing up in the slot, but that’s about it. However, I’m a little worried that all this does is keep Cortez comfortable in his old position, but limits hit growth potential on the outside where he NEEDS to be. Plus, even though I know he’s a rookie and needs time to develop, I’m thinking this will limit Shark’s contributions to the team as a 3rd safety and slot contributor.

  • Yup, then all we’ll see is our competitors best WR matched up against Gay constantly. Although, I actually think Gay plays the outside better, where he’s less likely to be juked and left trailing.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    Right now as the 4th or 5th CB, he will keep his spot due to his ability on special teams. He has been one of our best there over the last 2 years….when healthy. In fact, my guess would be that he is probably 5th on the depth chart, but will dress ahead of the 4th guy simply due to his special team abilities.

  • Johnny Loose

    I trust in Lebeau, Lake, Butler, and Mitchell to get this defense up to snuff. I really believe we’ll all be pleasantly surprised this year given all the ?s on this team with new faces. September cannot come soon enough.

  • Steve

    Jeremy – I guess James at 5-9 is too small and too slow for you too. He was only D player of the year. Is Troy too small also? I’ll bet his 40 is 5-0 but he is a missile when he need to be. Give Jones a try, they guy deserves that. Worlds is hurt every time they need him. He is a walking wounded and looks for an excuse NOT to play every time they needed him. In the NFL it’s Not for long if you don’t produce and you don’t get many chances. Worlds chances have came and gone.

  • Steve

    Hawthorne is on crutches right now so health is NOT his strong point. $$$ is his strong point signing on with that new money.

  • Steve

    There is no better then Lebeau in getting their team’s D ready. Good coaches improve a team weekly, so that by year end they are at peak playing ability. Weak coaches come out of the block fast and get tore apart by the end of the year. Once a system is in place, you vary very little and make adjustment at half on what the other team is doing. Adjustments vary from gap formations to reads. We use to open our splits on run up the chute and close splits on end runs and passes.

  • Steve

    Ike takes out their best WR. Gay is a nickle back.

  • You’re gay.