With less than a month to go until the 2015 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers have managed to re-sign six players that entered the offseason scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. One of their four remaining unsigned unrestricted free agents, however, might very well end of back in the fold at some point during the offseason and that player is veteran safety Will Allen.
The Steelers likely have time on their side when it comes to Allen, who will turn 33 years-old in June, as he’s unlikely to garner any interest from other teams until after June 1. By then, the draft will be way in the past and the final decision made with veteran safety Troy Polamalu, who is expected to either retire or be released after June 1.
While Allen has be regarded as a backup and non-starter for most of his career, he still managed to average 376 snaps of playing on defense during his last three seasons in Pittsburgh. It also doesn’t hurt that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin seems to have a soft spot for Allen dating back to the time the two spent with one another as members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tomlin made it clear last year what he thinks about Allen during his first press conference of training camp.
“He’s what a 10-plus-year positional player should be about,” said Tomlin of Allen “He’s extremely low-maintenance. He’s position flexible; he plays strong, he plays free, he plays in a variety of the sub-package positions that we have—half-safety, half-linebacker, if you will. He’s a smart guy who doesn’t require a bunch of maintenance, so he has value.”
While Allen’s value as a special teams player isn’t what it was when he first arrived in Pittsburgh in 2010, he probably still knows that his presence as a core player in kick and punt coverage units will be necessary if he’s going to stick around another season.
Should the Steelers indeed wind up moving on from Polamalu after June 1, they will be left with Mike Mitchell being the only safety on their roster that has extensive regular-season playing time experience. While third-year safety Shamarko Thomas will more than likely become the starter should Polamalu not return, you can bet that Tomlin and new defensive coordinator Keith Butler will both want an experienced player to serve as a primary backup at both the strong and free safety positions.
So, while it hasn’t happened yet, it really will be quite shocking if Allen isn’t re-signed to a one-year contract for the veteran minimum between now and the start of training camp. He’s been the Steelers “safety net” for several years running and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be asked to assume that same role one again in 2015.