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Cortez Allen May Just Be My Sleeper Pick to Develop Into Bigtime Player for the Pittsburgh Steelers

He may not be Ike Taylor fast, but the prospect out of The Citadel may have what it takes to stick around in Pittsburgh.

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, let me apologize real quickly for the relatively low volume of posts, particularly from me, this past week. I'm busy with many things, the main one being trying to make some headway on this year's preseason publication about the Pittsburgh Steelers for Maple Street Press. It's coming along nicely and I'll fill you in on what to expect in this year's edition, but it sure is hard to squeeze in as much posting here as I'd like while I work through it, especially when there's not a whole lot to talk about to begin with right now while we wait for a June ruling on the frustrating lockout.Anyway, just a heads up about my whereabouts.

Prior to joining Ken Laird yesterday on his tremendous Steelers 365 podcast, I came across something he wrote about Cortez Allen, a cornerback out of The Citadel that Pittsburgh selected in the fourth round of this year's draft. Several things that stuck out to me from the post, including:

  • He's not Ike Taylor fast, but Allen's 4.45 40-yard dash time was a fraction better than Curtis Brown's (4.5).
  • His speed can be traced back to his days as a track standout during high school in Florida.
  • He didn't start playing football until his junior year, and did not play varsity ball until his senior season, which helps explain why Allen wound  up at The Citadel. Perhaps he had better options in terms of football opportunities and really wanted to attend the military school, but even if so, it's pretty impressive he wound up with a scholarship anywhere considering when he first started playing organized ball.

The most interesting part of Laird's post though was some interesting statistics he culled from Allen's career. Laird began by noting that, yes, Allen did have only five career interceptions in college, two of which he returned for TDs, but his cover ability is better reflected in the following stats:

- 63 third down stops (58 vs. the pass) and 15 fourth down stops

- Just 69-of-197 passes (35%) and 3 TDs completed against him, with just 33 of those catches producing first downs

- Rerouting of his main coverage assignment on 102 of 128 incomplete pass attempts

- 13 of 28 starts where he did not give up a single reception

Laird also notes just how bad the rest of The Citadel's secondary was defending the pass, which also explains why he had limited opportunities to make plays and showcase his talents. A good read from Laird.

I was immediately intrigued by the young man when he was drafted on the third and final day of the 2011 NFL Draft, primarily because in addition to his solid measurables, I felt like he might have a much higher ceiling than people realize. You just don't have the same amount of time to devote to football at a program like The Citadel as you do at major D-1 schools where it's football all the time. Carnell Lake will inherit a young man with no trace of an ego who already knows the value of hard work. But I had yet to really research more about him and become familiar with his game and his personality. I still am curious and have more questions than answers, but after learning a little bit more about the job he did shutting down receivers in college makes me even more curious to see what kind of talent Cortez Allen may develop into in the NFL.

He's definitely one of many rookies that are being hurt most by the ongoing lockout, as this is the time when he'd be getting his first exposure to the intricacies of Dick LeBeau's defense. We'll see what happens this next few months, but the lockout could ultimately cripple his chances of making the roster this year. But in time, and perhaps as even as early as this year on special teams, I think Cortez Allen is going to endear himself to Steeler Nation with his contributions on Sundays.