Player: Will Allen
Experience: 11 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2014 Salary Cap Hit: $635,000
2014 Season Breakdown: Will Allen has been an important part of this defense for a few years now, even if the Steelers were willing to let him go at the start of the 2013 season when another organization was willing to give him the opportunity for a starting job.
That experiment quickly ended, and he found himself on the street and soon back in Pittsburgh, taking on a key role late in that season. Heading into 2015, is it possible that it’s Pittsburgh being the team giving him his next chance at a starting job?
That could be the case if starting strong safety Troy Polamalu elects to retire with two years left on his contract—after it was extended for salary cap purposes last spring. Or if the organization decides for Polamalu that it’s time for him to walk away.
Based on the 2014 season, it would be Allen who is the next man up. He filled in for Polamalu during OTAs, lining up across from the newly-signed Mike Mitchell. In the four games that Polamalu missed due to injury this season, it was Allen who filled in for him in the starting lineup.
One would have to say that he played competently, or fairly well, overall, though he had an ugly game in his first start of the season against the Jets, during which he missed multiple tackles and was taken out of other plays.
He settled down it seemed as the season wore on and he accumulated more snaps. His final start, the season finale, was quite a nice game for him, and perhaps the best argument for him deserving a chance at least to compete for a starting job in 2015 if Polamalu is indeed gone.
While he could never play in the manner Polamalu does, he is sound schematically and loves to play in the box and get his nose dirty. He could use more discipline and less aggression at times, however, when playing deep safety.
Free Agency Outlook: Two years ago, after Allen started much of the season in place of Polamalu, the Steelers let him sign elsewhere, carrying two inexperienced safeties as their only reserves. They were quick to re-sign him when he was made available and he became a fixture in their quarters defense by the end of that year.
The front office signed him quickly last offseason, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do so again this year, even if he’ll be 32 by the time the season starts. He won’t command much money, that’s for sure. Any other team kicking his tires in hopes of finding a starting safety is a team in bad shape.
Assuming that he is re-signed, which does seem likely, and virtually guaranteed if Polamalu is gone, it will be interesting to see what kind of opportunity is given to Shamarko Thomas, who, by his third season, one would expect to be able to take over the job.