By Matthew Marczi
The Pittsburgh Steelers spent nearly the entire game against the Detroit Lions in their quarter sub-package, with Cortez Allen logging 73 of 76 snaps and Will Allen playing nearly 70 snaps himself.
Will Allen, of course, may have been a mid-season signing this year as an injury replacement for DaMon Cromartie-Smith for special teams purposes, but he is obviously no stranger to the Steelers’ defense.
Will Allen spent the past three seasons with the Steelers, signing in 2010 in order to bolster the special teams woes that in part plagued Pittsburgh’s 2009 season. It wasn’t until last season though that he got a chance to contribute on defense.
Due to injuries to Troy Polamalu, he spent nearly half the season in the starting lineup and played both well and fundamentally sound. That is why Dick LeBeau showed no hesitation sticking with the quarter package after safety Shamarko Thomas was injured against the Buffalo Bills.
He plugged Will Allen right into the game and stuck with his game plan, and Allen ended up playing 32 snaps against Buffalo in the process. Playing nearly the entire game last week, he had one of the best games of his career. Officially, he was credited with nine tackles, seven solo, and a pass defensed, but it was his splash plays that defined his performance.
With the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year, he recorded his first interception since 2005 in the season opener. He got his second last week, reading and diagnosing the play to undercut the deep pass intended for Calvin Johnson.
Equally, if not more impressive, was his forced fumble on Reggie Bush earlier in the game, which was just the fourth of his career. Of his 10 total turnovers in his career, two happened to come in the same game.
Off the snap, Allen was playing for the run at linebacker depth on the left side of the defense. After denying Bush the A Gap, Allen followed him around the edge to the right, where he was met by Ryan Clark. Having him stood up, Allen took advantage of his vulnerability and punched the ball loose.
Allen used his success as a spot-starter last season as a springboard for a starting gig this past offseason in Dallas. Certainly, nobody can begrudge him that. After being demoted after just two games, and released after five, however, his return to Pittsburgh is a welcome one, and he managed to fit right in last week.