Now that we have completed our look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 90-man roster heading into training camp a bit under a month from now, it’s time to take a look back at the team’s 53-man roster from last year’s regular season, for the purpose of revisiting the contributions of the players that are no longer with the team, and whether or not those contributions have been adequately replaced.
Roster turnover is just a natural fact of today’s NFL, which have only become more prominent since the advent of free agency more than two decades ago. It’s very rare for a team to return all 11 starters on one side of the ball from one year to the next, let alone to do so for both the offense and defense.
The Steelers are certainly no exception to that rule, and they figure to have a number of lineup changes from 2015 to 2016, which seems to be increasingly common for them in recent years.
While he came to the Steelers with no high pedigree and left the same way, for a brief while, cornerback Cortez Allen at least gave the appearance of flirting with the idea of becoming a quality starter for a championship-level defense during the early stages of his career.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft out of The Citadel, Allen’s raw physical attributes, particularly his size at 6’1”, enamored the coaching staff, and they were intrigued by the potential of molding this young clay whose priority had never been able to be solely football, coming from a military school.
He battled injury in his rookie preseason and staved off a potential stint on the practice squad by finally getting on the field and recording a deflection that turned into an interception, and later during the season he earned some time as a dime back, most notably against the Patriots in a rare Steelers victory over New England.
In his second season, he inherited the nickel role as an outside cornerback with the departure of William Gay and did a commendable job. Late in the year due to injury he moved into the starting lineup and produced a flurry of turnovers that convinced the front office they could wait to sign him and let Keenan Lewis walk in free agency, which they did.
In the three years since, Allen’s performance has been underwhelming even when on the field, but he spent so much time off it due to injuries. He lost his starting job three times and was benched outright at least once, if not twice, though last year he only played in the opener and landed on injured reserve several weeks later due to injury.
The Steelers decided to release him and absorb a dead money hit in the millions rather than give it one more go. They have invested three high draft picks in the secondary in the last two years and acquired Ross Cockrell in the hopes of turning the secondary around, which has floundered since learning he was not to be the answer.