With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ recent re-signing of free agent wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, they have now reunited with five of their top free agents this period, though they also ended up losing two of them, one to free agency, and another to retirement.
There are still a couple that they may be calling upon again at some point over the course of the next few months, however, and should they revisit yet another player from their own free agent class, it is likely to be veteran safety Will Allen, who started four games in 2014 in place of the injured Troy Polamalu.
Though on the wrong side of 30, Allen has spent nearly half of his career—the majority of the past five seasons—in Pittsburgh, where he is reunited with Mike Tomlin, who was the defensive backs coach during part of Allen’s tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Last offseason, of course, the Steelers were quick to re-sign Allen, doing so at the start of free agency, even though it was just a basic one-year, veteran minimum deal. The fact that they committed to him so early, however, shows how much they valued him, and he did nothing to diminish his value last season.
One might wonder how much he was a Dick LeBeau guy, as a fellow alumnus of Ohio State, and whether or not that might influence the decision to bring him back, but, as already mentioned, he is also a Tomlin guy.
I can’t help but wonder if his future employment in Pittsburgh is related more to Polamalu. Could they be waiting for soon to be 34-year-old safety to inform the front office of his decision about prolonging his career?
The team is clearly giving Polamalu ample space this offseason amid a storm of informed speculation that Pittsburgh has every intention of moving on from the former Defensive Player of the Year, with team president Art Rooney II saying that there is “no drop-dead date” for a decision to be reached.
Once Polamalu comes in with a decision, either to retire, making it easy for the front office, or to continue playing, which may force their hands to release him, if they are intent on doing so, perhaps that is the time that they will act on Allen.
The Steelers do already have four safeties who were on the roster last season aside from Polamalu, and they also seem to have a healthy crop of futures players who could yield an interesting competition at the position.
Signing Allen now may enhance the already prominent picture that the Steelers want to vacate Polamalu’s spot, which the team has clearly gone out of its way to avoid, in spite of the fact that it has become a widely publicized narrative.
He is, after all, a player who would figure to compete, at the very least, for playing time in sub-packages, if not a starting spot, assuming that Polamalu is not in the lineup. And the team knows that they can wait on Allen, who would in all likelihood be available whenever they decide to come calling, so there’s no need to act now—not that it would be surprising if they did.