Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 Free Agents Analysis – S Will Allen – Unrestricted

By Matthew Marczi

Player: Will Allen

Position: Safety

Experience: 10 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2013 Salary Cap Hit: $592,941

2013 Season Breakdown: The only reason Will Allen left the Pittsburgh Steelers is because, like quarterback Byron Leftwich years before, another team was willing to give him an opportunity to be a starter. As with Leftwich, it had nothing to do with wanting to leave the team. And also like Leftwich, he was demoted after just a couple games.

Allen was only a starting safety for the Dallas Cowboys for two games, though he did have an interception. He was released after five games, and a week later was signed by the Steelers, thereby reshaping the defense for the rest of the season.

The veteran safety earned the opportunity to land a starting gig in 2012 when he filled in for safety Troy Polamalu for seven games and generally played well. Because he had been with the Steelers since 2010 and also had starting experience, Dick LeBeau was able to plug him in and play him right away.

With three healthy safeties with knowledge of and experience in his defense, LeBeau was able to run the three-safety dime package that the team refers to as the quarters package, and they in fact ended up playing in this package more than even their base defense in 2013, largely due to injuries in the front seven.

Playing just 12 games with the Steelers, Allen wound up playing nearly 400 snaps in Pittsburgh. His presence allowed Polamalu to play up in the box far more often—no doubt that helped contribute to his career-high five forced fumbles. Also of note is that he finished the year penalty-free.

Allen himself forced a fumble, while recovering another, and he also intercepted a pass while with the Steelers this season. He also played well against the run, particularly against the Baltimore Ravens and in the season finale.

He also had an excellent game in coverage in the first game against the Cleveland Browns, but he also got lost in the backfield a few times, helping to contribute to some big plays. One of his worst games in coverage was in fact against the Ravens, which was one of his best showings against the run.

Free Agency Analysis: With starting free safety Ryan Clark balking at the idea of taking an implied hometown discount amidst deteriorating play and increasing age, the 31-year-old Allen, in my opinion, is likely to return. He is by far the most experienced option to start next season next to Polamalu.

Behind him will be Robert Golden, a third-year cornerback-turned-safety who played some in the third safety role very early in the season before losing that spot to rookie Shamarko Thomas, and the aforementioned Golden, who didn’t always seem like he was ready for the NFL stage.

The Steelers value Thomas’ versatility, but I would be surprised if they intend to bank on him taking over a starting role in his second season, especially being undersized. While Allen is far from a young buck, he’s not at the end of the line, and doesn’t have a ton of wear, considering he’s only spent one professional season as a starter. At worst, he will be valuable depth, and will give the Steelers the ability to use the quarters defense.

Other Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Ryan Clark – Unrestricted Free Agent
Emmanuel Sanders – Unrestricted Free Agent
Brett Keisel – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ziggy Hood – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jason Worilds – Unrestricted Free Agent
David Johnson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Jonathan Dwyer – Unrestricted Free Agent
Fernando Velasco – Unrestricted Free Agent
Cody Wallace – Unrestricted Free Agent

About the Author

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

    Its pretty simple here.. if Clark is gone we’ll need W.Allen for depth regardless of whether they draft Safety or not

    Depth: Polamalu, W. Allen, S.Thomas, R.Golden /or draft pick and maybe Jordan Dangerfield on the practice squad, unless Dangerfield beats out Golden haha maybe getting ahead of myself here

  • Virdin Barzey

    He’s a Tomlin guy, he’s not great but not bad either. Probably not drafting a safety real high so I’m sure he stays. Nobody is calling so he will be cheap. Works for me.

  • NW86

    Thanks for this analysis, I know a lot of people have been presuming Shamarko will start at FS, but I see him more as Troy’s heir apparent at SS. I see Clark gone, Troy back for 1 more year, and Allen back on a 1 year league minimum qualifying contract. He enters training camp as the potential week 1 starter at FS, but any of the young guys, including a new draft pick, will have the opportunity to knock him off at some point.

  • Callentown

    It has become an interesting defensive backfield.

    For years, Troy and Clark held down the back end. And Ike had the #1 covered.

    Now, Clark is headed out of town or to a backup position. Troy is playing well, but close to his end as well, and Ike fell off a cliff last year.

    Behind them are a lot of questions.

    Love Sharko. And Cortez and Gay are solid, but not great.

    Expect more movement than in recent times. We desperately need a #1 CB or the safety position will become even more important.

    (Posted while waving sadly to Keenan Lewis in N.O.)

  • Steve

    Hey —- He gets NO respect!!!

  • Steve

    Matthew – You must have been up all night writing this stuff. Thanks a lot for keeping us posted.

  • Chad H

    You are right Shark is a SS and not a FS. I believe Allen will start the season at FS not sure where Golden will fit in maybe he will develop and get the starting FS job. I don’t see safety as big of a priority this year but we do need another CB and this draft class doesn’t look great.

  • cencalsteeler

    While I agree with most of the above posts. Let’s not forget the door left open by Ike. He mentioned some talk of him moving over to safety. If they go high in the draft with a corner, this could be a possibility as well.

  • David Edward

    While Allen did some good things and knows the D, he also made a number of mistakes. I saw him take poor angles and miss plenty of tackles. In a nutshell, Will is an experienced backup but is not an ideal starting caliber NFL safety…especially at age 32 next year. As I mentioned about Hood, if the Steelers are committed to getting better on D, they can’t have guys like Allen and Hood as their starters.

    That being said, since no immediate successor to Clark has been identified, Allen may be their stopgap until a young guy is ready. Like many have said, there won’t be much of a market for him in FA, so he can be had back on the cheap. However, if that is their plan, it certainly elevates the need to draft a starting caliber FS…which is what I think they will do. The other option would be to sign a vet FA (like they did with Clark) to plug and play. I don’t really see Ike as an ideal option. Also, unless they plan to have Sharmako be the FS of the future, I wouldn’t play him there for one year then move him. On the contrary, it’s conceivable they could play Shark at SS and move Troy to FS for his final year since Troy knows the entire D.

  • Patrick Reid

    Liking what I’ve seen of J Danger on tape. Interested in finding out why he hasn’t stuck. Its not to far fetched for him to be a keeper, ala undrafted Ryan Clark. I like Allen but we could do so much better. I we look to the draft as an option.Buchannon from WSU or Dixon from Baylor will go early. Anthony Harris from UVA is a beast but I don’t think he’s declared as of yet. Later options would be Exum from VT or Whitley from Miss St.

  • Brendon Glad

    He makes plays. I like that. He reminds me a little of one of my favorite guys from the archive of underrated Steelers named Chris Oldham. Both seem to be around the ball and doing something with the opportunity for the ball than the average back-up DB.
    I hope we keep him.

  • Brendon Glad

    I agree with you. I see Shamarko as a SS more myself too. But maybe I’m thinking too much like “standard defensive football”.
    Because I would like my FS to be a ball-hawk. Clark was never that. Troy P. did most of the ball-hawking. So maybe the LeBeau system lends itself toward the opposite. Not sure.
    But my guess is that my first instinct is correct, and Troy P. did more ballhawking because he’s just great, and that in reality, we will need a FS who plays the ball better than Clark very soon, if not now.
    I’d draft a FS ballhawking type pretty darn early if I were the Steelers.

  • pittsburghjoe

    I read a story about his childhood. His youth was all about rejection. He even bought a yo-yo and it never came back. No respect!

  • alex

    i hated to see him go last year, and glad to see him back

    given our lack of depth, Allen might actually get some money in 2014…he has value for us as we draft to strengthen the middle of our D…