The Steelers couldn't even make it to August before having a starter added to the injury list for 2013. Cortez Allen's injury that required surgery, while reported to not have long term implications, was a cause for concern for the Pittsburgh secondary. The Steelers have had their fair share of nagging injuries in recent years, especially to starters on their defense. Allen's injury seemed to be a bad omen at the time for the team needing a clean bill of health for most of its players.
However a quick recovery got Allen back into the starting lineup against Kansas City in the third preseason game. His return would allow the Steelers to see their secondary with all of its starters available for the first time in the 2013 preseason. His replacement, William Gay, was the point of much criticism from the first two preseason games, despite praise from his teammates.
But even with Allen returning, there would be no way to predict when he could start playing like the starter the Steelers saw in the closing weeks of the 2012 season. Players such as LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu were continuously affected by nagging injuries that had an obvious impact on their play at different points of the season. With that in mind, it would be interesting to see how Allen would play against the Chiefs.
Allen may not have produced a turnover last night, but he proved to be the valuable asset in the secondary to the Steelers throughout the game. He led the team with six tackles, and was seen providing solid coverage throughout the evening.
In Pittsburgh's second drive on defense, Allen could be seen defensing a deep pass, and then making a second down tackle short of the first down marker, that led to a third down stop forcing a punt.
On the fourth drive, the Chiefs had advanced 48 yards in six plays and driven into Pittsburgh's territory. On the seventh play, Allen made a crucial tackle short of the first down that again forced a punt.
Although Allen was flagged for a penalty for illegal contact during the game (the penalty was declined), that still didn't change the fact that he was an impressive part of the Steelers' secondary last night.
The better Pittsburgh cornerbacks in this Dick LeBeau era, including Ike Taylor, have been solid tackling defensive backs. The ability to tackle runners from out the backfield and contain receivers who have been allowed to catch passes short of the first down marker is crucial for the Steelers' style of defense. While forcing turnovers is a major part of playing good defense, solid fundamentals in the secondary can go a long way to having a solid defensive season. This is why the Steelers oft rank high amongst the NFL's top units against the pass, even while having low sack totals and turnover stats.
Allen looked to be right back into the swing of things last night. This team needs him to be an emerging player this season and prove to be the starter they gambled him to be when they let go of Keenan Lewis last season.
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