Veteran safety Will Allen has clung on with the Pittsburgh Steelers for several years now, entering the starting lineup on a full-time basis this season following the retirement of Troy Polamalu. He missed three games due to an ankle injury, but returned in Week Nine, where he had his ups and downs.
On Sunday, in his second game back, Allen brought with him some more consistency, as well as a turnover, which certainly didn’t hurt, resulting in arguably one of his better performances of the year.
The 33-year-old had a particularly solid game in run support, following a showing in which he missed a key tackle that led to a 19-yard touchdown run. On the Browns’ second play, he nicely filled the hole on a run right following a pulling guard, making the stop after a one-yard gain.
Allen nearly came away with an interception on the next play after Johnny Manziel threw a pass under duress that was too hot for his receiver. The ball bounce into the air, and the safety efforted to secure it while staying inbounds, but to no avail. Truthfully, however, it should have been a turnover.
That play forced a third and nine, on which Allen was caught between responsibilities, aiding Ross Cockrell in covering Travis Benjamin as the lone receiver on the left half of the field, or pressuring Manziel as he scrambled for several seconds, ultimately fleeing to his left. He ultimately never came to a decision as Benjamin escaped from Cockrell and Manziel found him for a 61-yard gain.
Midway through the second quarter, Allen came in on a run blitz off the right side of the defense, creeping up late in the snap count. The design appeared to be a run right, but Duke Johnson had no choice but to attempt to cut back the other way. Unable to escape Allen, the rookie back was dropped for a four-yard loss.
After the Steelers put up a touchdown paired with a two-point conversion later in the quarter, Allen limited the Browns’ next drive to just a single play. While he may have initially come down too far in coverage, the safety was able to come from behind on Andrew Hawkins after making a reception, knocking the ball loose as he brought the slight receiver down, with Pittsburgh recovering.
Early in the second half, with Cleveland showing a two tight end look, Allen played up in the box, bursting through a wide open C gap along the offensive right edge, dropping Johnson at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
Of course, there was one major lowlight for the 12th-year veteran, playing in single coverage outside the numbers over Gary Barnidge from six yards out. The tight end defended Allen’s jam very well and ripped past him, with the 33-year-old safety lacking the recovery speed to make a defense on the play, which went for the Browns’ only touchdown.
Still, while he did give up a score in what was at the time a 24-3 game, Allen did play well, particularly with respect to his soundness of tackling, which was lacking earlier in the season—even last week. This is a trend for him that must continue if he means to earn his stay in the starting lineup, as he replacement did well in his absence.