The Pittsburgh Steelers signed cornerback Cortez Allen to a five-year, $26 million contact extension right before the start of the 2014 regular season and unfortunately the former fourth-round draft pick out The Citadel proceeded to play so poorly that it led to him being benched. On top of the regression of his play, Allen ultimately finished the 2014 season on injured reserve because of thumb and knee injuries. Even though the long-term investment in Allen looks like a bad one so far, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert made it clear Wednesday during an interview on Steelers Nation Radio that the organization still believes he can rebound in 2015.
“We’re confident that he’s going to have that opportunity to bounce back,” said Colbert. “It’s up to Cortez and we’re certainly going to be there to help find his game and because if he finds his game he’s going to make our defense that much better. We obviously felt that, we trusted him when we invested in him as we did.”
Colbert also detailed the problems that Allen had in 2014.
“Part of his issue was health at the end, but part of it was confidence,” said Colbert, who is currently in Indianapolis for the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. “I think the change of the rules and the emphasis on the illegal contacts and the defensive holdings, I forget how many he had in the preseason, but he had a high number and I think that shook his confidence some and he didn’t come out of it, and he had to be replaced in the lineup. When he did come back, then he had some health issues that derailed him again.
“And so we think back often about Ike Taylor and there was a point early in Ike’s career early when he was benched. He fought through it and he ended up having a really good career. So we’re confident that Cortez has that ability and he certainly is going to have that opportunity to get his game back.”
Colbert then talked at length about Allen’s confidence issues and the steps that are being taken to help him get it back.
“I think confidence as a player comes from success,” said Colbert. “I’m not a coach, but I’m sure the coaches will point out what he did good, what he didn’t do so good, what can we do to improve and get you back to that point when you were a solid player. I think you can look at that in any sport and any position. They’re going to go through periods when they’re not frontline players.
“So I think its the coach’s job to do that on a daily basis and it’s the organization’s job and my job to support him as he tries to find that and I think we all have to make that effort to help him because he’s only going to help us if he finds his game. So we’ll try to do that and that process has already begun with the offseason work, the rehab that he’s continuing to do and as you move into the OTAs and minicamps and all that. We’ll just try to continue it.
“And another thing that always makes players better is competition. I think that when you have someone breathing down your neck that can take your job, that will only help and that’s part of the process we hope to be able to do with the draft.”
Competition for Allen certainly will be a good thing and the Steelers are almost certain to address the cornerback position at least once in the draft this year. Colbert made it clear what he thinks about this year’s crop.
“I think the group, as we stand here today, it looks like it’s going to be good,” said Colbert. “I think there’s NFL-caliber players that are going to be available really through probably at least the first five rounds. Not everyone is going to be 6’1” and 4.3, but certainly not every corner in the NFL is of that stature.
“So if you’re looking in that area, and you have a couple of spots that you might want to fill, you better be open to the fact that there are guys available that can help your team. I think you always look at the backend of your own team every year and understand that there is good players throughout the draft. Maybe more at one position than another, but when you look at corner you feel comfortable that it’s going to be a real solid position.”
Like Colbert, I think it’s way too early to give up on Allen because we saw glimpses early on in his career of how good he can actually be. He just needs to get himself healthy and improve his confidence. I think he will do both. At the same time, however, the Steelers certainly need to address the cornerback position in the first three rounds of the draft as they really need more young depth at the position to develop as cupboard is currently empty when it comes to that position.