Player: Will Allen
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2015 Salary Cap Hit: $665,000
2015 Season Breakdown: For only the second time in his career, and the first time since 2006, veteran safety Will Allen served as a primary starting safety for a team for an entire season, playing in and starting 13 regular season games and two playoff games in 2015, missing three games due to an ankle injury in the middle of the season.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that his most recent season was something to behold—after all, the Steelers only turned to him out of necessity after Shamarko Thomas failed his own audition to enter the starting lineup. Allen was the backup plan all along, and they did not want to use him.
And we saw the reasons why, as he certainly doesn’t exactly light of the grass with his speed these days, relying instead upon his knowledge of the game to gain an edge. Worse still was his struggles as a tackler, which had previously only inconsistently been an issue.
For me, I would say that it was the single most significant trait that defined his season, as he was the second-biggest liability on a rather liable defense behind only Antwon Blake, who at least had the excuse of being injured for his terrible tackling efficiency.
Allen also gave up a lot of touchdowns as the primary man in coverage this year, especially against tight ends, and the Steelers will be surely looking to improve in that regard. Allen may have the size, but not the speed to match up with today’s elite tight ends.
A minor quirk of his season is that he recorded four sacks, which were the first four of his entire career. He did also cause two forced fumbles and eight passes defensed, a few of which were quite notable efforts. But there is a reason that many wondered why Robert Golden didn’t keep the starting job.
Free Agency Outlook: It’s hard to say just how much interest the Steelers might have in bringing back Allen yet again for a 13th NFL season. If they do, it will certainly not be with the intention of re-inserting him into the starting lineup—or at least I would think not.
Allen started at all, of course, because of Thomas’ failure to instill confidence in his ability to do the job among the coaching staff, so they turned to the veteran who had logged 13 starts and extensive playing time for the Steelers over the past five seasons.
Although the numbers at the end of the season might look pretty good, and he did make some good plays at times, the sheer number of missed tackles has to be a major concern. That doesn’t mean that he can’t serve as a backup again, but he will be 34 years old and certainly no faster than a year ago.
At best, I figure he will be on the backburner until the Steelers formulate a plan through free agency and the draft. If at the end of the day they feel they can use the depth, then he will only be a phone call away, and won’t need any getting up to speed.