Cortez Allen Will Have To Earn His Starting Job Back, Evidence Suggests

By Matthew Marczi

As it currently stands, it sounds as though Cortez Allen will have to prove himself before the Pittsburgh Steelers anoint him as a starter once again, as reports are that William Gay has been taking the first-team reps at outside cornerback, with no change throughout the week. Allen has resumed his old slot role from last season. Even Curtis Brown is supposedly seeing an increased role in practice.

The company line is, evidently, that Allen is still dealing with his ankle injury, which he suffered toward the end of the second quarter of the team’s first game of the year. He proceeded to miss the second half of that game, as well as the two subsequent games, with Gay taking his place.

Of course, Allen’s ankle is healthy enough to practice in the slot, but not healthy enough to practice outside, evidently, so that sort of puts into question how much weight the injury angle actually carries.

When Allen came back against the Minnesota Vikings, he turned in a shoddy performance that included two touchdowns allowed—including a 70-yarder—and three missed tackles, so it is no surprise to see this action being taken.

In the meantime, they have at their disposal William Gay, who has never missed a game in his seventh season, and has 54 starts to his name, including 39 in Dick LeBeau’s system.

His other 15 starts came under defensive coordinator Ray Horton for the Arizona Cardinals last season, who was, of course, the defensive backs coach for most of Gay’s tenure in Pittsburgh until 2011, when he left to take the defensive coordinator job in Arizona.

On the other hand, Cortez Allen already has a relatively detailed injury history in his young career, with just five starts to his name. There would be no shame if Allen still needed some time to develop before he is ready to be a consistent starter.

Remember, he missed most of his rookie training camp, and then again this past training camp, so he has missed a lot of prep work behind the scenes. That is not to mention his higher responsibilities during his college tenure at The Citadel and the fact that he picked up on football late.

If it is in Cortez Allen’s—and the team’s—best interest to ease the third-year cornerback back into the defense, and into a starting role, then I am in full support of that plan.

As I have previously written, William Gay has done an admirable job starting opposite Ike Taylor for two and a half games already this season, so if he ends up starting another game or two (or even more), that should not limit the Steelers in any way.

In fact, he has forced one of the two fumbles for the team so far this year, even though neither was recovered. Gay has thus far made the team look smart for re-signing him, but the onus will be on him to prolong that perception.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Showboogie

    Gay has played pretty well this year at corner, has exceeded my expectations with his play against the run, he seems to always be around the ball,tackles for loss, pass def, strips. Would like to see the corners press the WR alitte more this week, stop giving up thou 7yd slants on 1st down.

  • greeny

    We need to draft nothing but secondary and OL.

  • mem359

    Maybe I’m getting the wrong impression, but it seems like the team is reluctant to play the back-ups, then they get tossed into the deep end as full-time starters, then can get put in the doghouse for almost any mistake. If this is the case, there has to be a better way to develop players.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Dick LeBeau’s philosophy for CBs is “play off” “keep the ball in front of you” “tackle the catch” “if there is an errant throw intercept it”.

    He does not teach CBs to “gamble” or “turn to find the ball” or “make a play on the ball”.

    In the past this worked because we would get so much pressure on the QB it forced sacks/fumbles/bad throws. Now that we can’t get pressure QBs have more options. They can throw short, deep, or scramble. With no fear of INTs.

    Our CB crew is actually built skill-wise to do the exact opposite. Ike and Cortez are big physical CBs. Put them up tight to the LOS and they will be much more effective. Jam the WRs. Take away the 3-5 yards quick safe pass. Force the WRs to either run slants across the middle where Timmons. Troy, Clark, are waiting. Or make them run deep routes and then TURN AND FIND THE BALL. That’s how you avoid PI penalties and make INTs.

    This is what Carnell Lake teaches. Change the scheme and Cortez will be fine. Draft Kyle Fuller or Antone Exume in the 2nd round and we’ll be set.

  • Ahmad

    Gay has exceeded all expectations so far this year and I’m proud of him. However, wait until he gets burned and watch Steeler Nation bash him into tiny pieces.

  • greeny

    Amen