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Cowboys S Will Allen looking to teach young secondary 'Steelers mentality'

The Steelers defensive backs all told Will Allen upon his arrival in 2010 he needs to hit people if he wants to play in Pittsburgh. Allen is looking to pass that message onto a young Cowboys secondary.

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Cowboys safety Will Allen remembers his roots.

In an article by Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio News-Express, there's clearly a value put on Allen's experience with the Steelers. He was signed to compete for one of the Cowboys' open safety positions, and is speaking the part of the veteran, not the understudy, as he was in Pittsburgh through three seasons.

"The first thing they said to me was, ‘If you don't stick your face in the fan, you can't be on this defense,' " Allen told Orsborn, speaking of Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor. "They said, ‘We don't care about interceptions. If you ain't ready to hit, we don't need you.' "

An interesting comment, considering the Steelers are among the bottom of the league in interceptions over the last two years. At its core, though, the physical nature of the defense is the main goal. Interceptions are the results of timing and positioning, and can often be the result of luck (and pressure on the quarterback).

The Steelers have loaded up their secondary with athletes over the last two years, and the amount of speed burners they will eventually cut will look crazy. Players on the fringe, like DeMarcus Van Dyke, Isiah Green and Justin King (placed on the IR last week) have loads of speed, but their inclusion on this year's team will depend on their ability to hit.

That's something Allen is bringing to what looks like a very young Cowboys secondary.

"If you aren't trying to hit, you can forget about it," Allen said."So that's my mentality at all costs. I don't really care. That's the mentality they have there (in Pittsburgh), and hopefully I can bring that here and get some guys to follow."

It's not as if the Cowboys are trying to mimic the Steelers' defense. They're moving from a 3-4 base alignment to a 4-3 under Monte Kiffin, only the second-oldest defensive coordinator in the NFL behind Pittsburgh's Dick LeBeau. Allen played for Kiffin and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2004-08. He wound up in Pittsburgh, making seven starts in place of Troy Polamalu last year.