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Steelers secondary first in yards allowed and age

Age can actually be a benefit in this game, contrary to popular opinion. The Steelers secondary shows that with experienced starters and youthful back-ups.

Justin K. Aller

Steelers likely nickel back for the 2013 season, William Gay, is a rarity among the team's secondary. He's both under 30 and experienced.

Likely Hall of Fame safety, Troy Polamalu, is coming off injuries that largely derailed an underwhelming 2012 season. Ike Taylor ran the gambit of dog (Weeks 1-6), high-level performer (Weeks 7-12) and injured-reserve (just a play into Week 13). Ryan Clark played well despite a few knocks to the head during the year. Departed free agent Keenan Lewis played fairly well after a slow start.

Cornerbacks are typically more athletic than safeties, and while few alive are more athletic than Polamalu, Taylor and Cortez Allen, Lewis's replacement, are arguably the most athletic pair of cornerbacks the Steelers have had in a decade, maybe longer. Clark and Polamalu combine for a level of experience very few, if any, in the league possess. Gay is a decent inside cover defensive back with solid if not spectacular skills.

In fact, the Steelers are likely to cut at least one good defensive back, simply due to the depth this team has.

So what does age have to do with it? Tribune-Review reporter Mark Kaboly asks that question Sunday, pointing out what this team did not have last year - experience at the cornerback spot opposite Taylor and the nickel back spot - won't be an issue in 2013.

Allen, the team's nickel back last year, made one of the few appearances he had in his career to that point in Week 1 against Denver's Peyton Manning. With both Allen and Lewis on the field, Manning was able to toy with the young duo, running multiple rub routes off of them, and their lack of experience shined brighter than the Broncos' orange jerseys in a 31-19 win.

Now, Allen has experience, as does Gay, a seven-year veteran. If Polamalu stays healthy, maintaining the status quo shouldn't be difficult for this group; and status quo is leading the league in passing yards allowed, which they've done in each of the last two seasons.

Age has its advantages.