End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Cortez Allen
Experience: 4 Years
The Steelers expected Cortez Allen to cement himself in the starting lineup as an outside cornerback by now. They wanted that to happen in 2013, but he was sidetracked by injuries, and then began to struggle before regaining his job by the end of the year.
They were counting on it happening in 2014, but things only went from bad to worse. He was demoted due to poor play, and then benched entirely two games later, in the middle of the season.
The coaching staff evidently determined that Allen developed issues in his game that were at least as mental as they were physical, and they were not issues that they could fully and capably address during the course of the season, which is why he was reduced to special teams work until an injury landed him on injured reserve down the stretch of the season.
The previous season, however, is now in the past, and of course Allen is not the first player to ever be benched. His future is not yet written. It’s largely up to himself how much of his story is yet to be written, and what that story has to say.
So now the focus shifts away from the past and toward the present, and the future. Allen is due a heavy roster bonus soon after free agency begins, and in all likelihood, he will be getting that bonus. The Steelers have invested too much in him to not see his new contract through at least to the start of the second season.
Who will Allen be in 2015? I wouldn’t imagine that he will be handed a starting job. He will have to compete for a spot in the starting lineup after his misadventures from a year ago, and he’s certainly not guaranteed to win it.
But if he could even contribute as a sub-package player for now, with the potential to be a fill-in starter, as he was at the end of the 2012 season, then that will have to feel like a win for now, and perhaps a stepping stone to a more prosperous future in which he can be relied upon in a starting role again.
He has the physical build—perhaps not the desired top-end speed, admittedly—and he has shown the body of work on the field, indicating that the makings of the player the Steelers want to be are there. The question is, how can it all be harnessed?