The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: Will Allen
Experience: 12 Years
Well, we just recently talked about Will Allen in the context of his pending free agency, but now it’s time to give a full accounting of his 2015 season. I suppose there is no secret that he is a bit of a favorite of head coach Mike Tomlin, whose tenure as the defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay briefly overlapped with Allen’s early days.
Allen spent the first six years of his career with the Buccaneers, but he has spent the bulk of the past six years—with the brief stint in Dallas—under Tomlin with the Steelers, and this past season, he was asked to be a part of the team’s starting lineup following the retirement of Troy Polamalu and the ineffectiveness of Shamarko Thomas.
Allen was moved into the starting lineup some time between the final preseason game and the regular season opener, where he proceeded to start the first five games before an ankle injury early in that fifth game sidelined him for the next three games.
During that early time, Allen had a mixture of successes and failures, playing inconsistently strong run defense and recording an interception, but he also was responsible for a number of missed tackles that were a detriment to the defense, and he also gave up some touchdowns in the red zone.
During his absence, Robert Golden emerged in his place and looked to be a legitimate option to remain in the starting lineup, especially given Allen’s struggles in being a consistent tackler, but the veteran was moved back into the starting lineup when healthy, and he had a couple of big games his first two weeks back, registering 16 tackles and a forced fumble in that span with three passes defensed.
Inconsistency was without a doubt the greatest concern with Allen in his first year as a primary starting player since 2006. The truth is, and many may have lost track of this in the midst of all of the negative plays, that the veteran also made a lot of plays. In addition to producing three turnovers, he registered a career-high 80 tackles and eight passes defensed in spite of missing nearly a quarter of the year.
But the question is whether or not he will be brought back for another season, and whether he should be brought back. That will depend greatly on how the Steelers are able to address the safety position during free agency and the draft. If Allen is indeed back, I wouldn’t expect him to be signed until just before training camp as they look to find a way to move in another direction.