Very early in the offseason, before the start of the new league year in mid-March, we learned that the Pittsburgh Steelers did not plan to re-sign safety Will Allen, who started 15 games including the playoffs last season, missing three games due to injury.
Later that month, Allen spoke about his desire to continue to play, and his hope that he would be able to return to the Steelers, even while previous reports suggested that would not happen. In the interim, the team signed then-pending free agent Robert Golden to a three-year contract. After Allen’s comments, the team drafted Sean Davis in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Just this past weekend, Allen participated in Antonio Brown’s charity softball event with many of his former Steelers teammates, and he spoke to reporters again, reiterating that he still has every intention of playing this season and is not retiring.
His attitude, however, was different—more open, let’s say. “I’m open and I’m ready for whatever team wants me”, Dale Lolley quoted him as saying for the Observer-Reporter. “I get the business side of things”, the 34-years-old-on-Friday strong safety said; “I’m ready and prepared to kill it when I get my opportunity”.
Allen got an opportunity with the Cowboys during the 2013 season, signing just a one-year, veteran-minimum deal, but choosing to leave Pittsburgh for the opportunity to started. He lasted just two starts and four games before Dallas released him. He was quickly re-signed by the Steelers and became a fixture in a disproportionately-used quarter defense that year.
He has been with the Steelers since, entering the starting lineup last year in place of Shamarko Thomas, who lost his starting job in the preseason while he attempted to replace the retired Troy Polamalu. It was his first prominent starting role since early in his career. He registered 80 tackles, two forced fumbles, an interception, and four sacks in 13, but his play was highly scrutinized due to a high number of missed tackles and failures in coverage.
It does seem unlikely for the Steelers to re-sign Allen at this point, as they appear to be set at the top of the depth chart with Mike Mitchell, Golden, Davis, and Thomas, with other safety options behind them to fill out the depth chart. He could, however, be on speed dial should an injury create an opening during training camp.
“I’ve got a lot left”, Allen told Lolley. “I thought I made some impactful plays last season and I’m in better shape now than I was last year”. That last remark is certainly interesting, although I don’t believe any conditioning concerns were visible or a significant contributor to his performance last year.
Drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2004 in the fourth round, with Mike Tomlin as his position coach in his first two seasons, Allen started 24 games between years two and three, spending his first six seasons there. He spent the bulk of his last six seasons, aside from his four games in Dallas, with the Steelers, featuring prominently in the defense over the last four years.