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Steelers benching Cortez Allen wouldn't hurt his development

Ike Taylor went through it and he came back a better player. As Steelers coach Mike Tomlin suggests, he's open to making moves on his roster, so the benching of Cortez Allen has to be considered.

Justin K. Aller

It wasn't too far back - although long enough that younger fans may not remember or care now - then-Steelers coach Bill Cowher made the decision to bench cornerback Ike Taylor after a string of poorly-played games in 2006.

He was coming off a contract extension and, whether he was pressing too hard or just wasn't mentally keeping up with what was happening, the former starter found himself riding the pine as the Steelers failed to reach the playoffs after winning a Super Bowl the previous year.

Save the Super Bowl part, does any of this sound familiar?

Taylor was a small-school project who didn't play much right away, but he turned a bit of starting experience into a long-term contract extension. Immediately following that extension, his play suffered to the point he was hurting the team more than he was helping it. Then, the decision was made to put him on the bench.

Taylor likely wouldn't agree with this sentiment, but that experience was likely better for him than getting whipped up and down the field like he was during that year. He came back in 2007 under new coach Mike Tomlin and has been a starter with the team ever since, playing some of his best football in 2007-10 when the Steelers' defense was among the best in the game.

Then there's Cortez Allen, another small school project who didn't play much right away but who turned a bit of starting experience into a long-term get it. If you ignore the coaching change (at least for right now) and the Super Bowl, the paths of both Taylor and Allen are similar enough to remember, as Tomlin said, no stone will be left unturned in looking for ways to help this football team.

It's the right decision. It's not a blame thing but, rather, a message of tough love combined with protection. The Steelers invested a long-term deal in Allen. They can't simply give up on him but, after a solid game against Jacksonville, he struggled quite a bit against Cleveland and very well could find himself on the pine when the Steelers take on the Houston Texans in Week 7. If a move was to be made to bench Allen, it would more likely be in nickel situations with Brice McCain moving to the outside. It would seem the bigger, stronger Allen would be more of an asset in the run game in the Steelers' base defense than McCain.

It's not all Allen's fault, nor is it admitting any mistake, no more so than it was with Taylor in 2006. It might just be time to have him wave a towel for his teammates on the sideline for awhile as the Steelers' defense tries to figure out better ways to win games.

Something has to change. Tomlin alluded to it, and Allen seems to represent some of that needed change right now.