Believe it or not, the Pittsburgh Steelers report to training camp on July 25th, and we are digging up the '32 Scenarios in 32 Days' segment to help us all pass the time. Once a day we will be drafting a potential 2015 season scenario, telling you why it will happen, why it won't and giving you important keys for the scenario to take place.
Scenario: Steelers CB Cortez Allen bounces back from bad 2014 and returns to 2013 form.
Why it will happen: Sometimes players have abysmal seasons. None were more abysmal than Allen's 2014 season where he was targeted more than any other Steelers' defensive back, when in the lineup. Allen not only played the season injured, but looked like a basket case as he was often penalized due to the emphasis on illegal contact down the field.
The injury is what matters most in this scenario. Allen is finally healthy, according to position coach Carnell Lake, and seems to be in a good state of mind heading into the offseason. There will certainly be pressure on Allen to perform in 2015, and the state of the team's secondary might hinge on his return to form.
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Call it a hunch, but I see Allen returning to form and it has a large part to do with the bounce back which can naturally happen after such a horrendous season. Allen still was able to corral 3 interceptions in 2014, and has a great set of hands for a defensive back. Allen will have to prove his worth after getting a healthy contract extension before the 2014 season, and as he is finally healthy and determined to put last season behind him, Allen could be due for a bounce back year.
Why it won't happen: Despite the contract and injuries in 2014, Allen looked as lost as can be last season. His footwork, positioning and ultimately his poor play either resulted in big plays or penalties for the opposition. That won't likely change in 2015 despite him returning to health.
Allen has the tangible tools to be a great cornerback in the league - size, speed, athleticism - but what he lacks is the consistency and confidence to be truly dominant. As things were going South in 2014, you could visually see Allen becoming more and more deflated, the wrong response to adversity in a position like cornerback at the NFL level.
Outside of his confidence and play in 2014, his supporting cast won't be nearly as good in 2015. Gone are Ike Taylor and more importantly Troy Polamalu. When Allen was productive in 2013, he had those two players helping to anchor the secondary and at times cover up for his mistakes. Those safety valves are gone, and it is now Allen who will have to be solid and possibly cover up for other's mistakes. Not a promising scenario after 2014.
Keys: As Ike Taylor would say, Cortez Allen needs to get his swagger back. As stated above, Allen has the tools to be great, but it is his psyche which seems to get in the way. Under to tutelage of Carnell Lake and Keith Butler, Allen will be a priority in getting his head, and his game, right heading into 2015. A lot hinges on Allen's production, or lack thereof, in 2015 and whether he lives up to the billing could pay huge dividends for the Steelers' defense. This scenario could be one of the most important for a mediocre defense next season.