When Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the future of former fourth-round cornerback Cortez Allen after the team’s season had concluded, and whether or not he was confident that he would be able to return in 2016 as a contributor, he responded rather simply with, “I’m not. We’ll see”.
Asked to elaborate on his position, Tomlin didn’t offer much in the way of clarity, deflecting such concerns for ones more pragmatically addressed later in the offseason, as the Steelers had just finished playing football. He likely hadn’t spent much time thinking about Allen since he was placed on injured reserve almost three months prior to those comments.
The 10th-year head coach, part of the Competition Committee, is currently in Florida during the league’s annual Owners Meetings, and took the time to address some questions from the media, among them whether or not his response to the previous question that he fielded back in January had changed.
Equally blunt, the beginning of his response was clear and concise: “not at all. It hasn’t”. But what has changed over the course of the past three months is his willingness to expand upon the reasoning behind his pessimistic disposition regarding Allen’s future, and it reflects and equally simple answer.
“It’s health”, Tomlin told reporters. “I don’t know where his level of health is”. Health is an issue that has dogged Allen throughout the entirety of his professional career, beginning with a hamstring injury that kept him out of most of his rookie preseason and threatened his chances of making the roster. Tomlin continued:
I don’t think that any of us do. I am sure we will at some point. I don’t know where he is in terms of his schedule of rehabilitation but I am sure at some point in this process we are going to have a sense of where he is and what he is able to do, those types of things. I just don’t have the answers to that as we sit here today.
That seems to be a far negative approach than he has taken in light of many other injuries to his players, most notably pertaining to Sean Spence’s knee injury, during which time his position coach, then-linebackers coach Keith Butler expressed extreme pessimism that he would ever play again.
It could be, at least in part, that Tomlin’s pessimism is an effort to send a message to a player that seems to need one, as he has a penchant for sending private messages to his men via public comments. Spence needed the vote of confidence. Allen needs, perhaps, a warning that his future is in jeopardy if he can’t get his body right.
Of course, there is no real compelling reason to express optimism about Cortez Allen’s future as a contributing defensive player, given that, even when he has been on the field over the past few years, he has often struggled. He has been demoted or benched entirely in each of the last three seasons.
Most recently, he was demoted from the starting lineup to the nickel sub-package leading into the season opener, which is the only game he played in due to the knee issue that landed him on injured reserve about six months ago to date.