Missing Pieces 2016: S Will Allen

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.

As much as nearly everybody might seem to agree that it is time for him to move on from professional football, I do believe that the absence of veteran safety Will Allen will be felt for the Steelers next season, particularly, of course, in the locker room, given that he was not expected to resume his starting role.

A 12-year veteran, Allen spent four games shy of half of his career with the Steelers after spending his first six season with the Buccaneers. He became an essential confidant of head coach Mike Tomlin, who was also his position coach with the Buccaneers for a couple years.

Though brought in originally primarily for special teams, he gradually earned the trust of the defensive coaches, and in his last few seasons played a vital role for the Steelers. Last season, he moved into the starting lineup and started 15 games, including the playoffs, missing three due to injury.

Admittedly, his performance lagged from what it had once been as he struggled with his tackling in a way that had not been evident before, and he often seemed to have lost a step, in addition to having his struggles coverage, though he also made his share of plays with an interception, four sacks, and a couple of forced fumbles.

He started many games in prior years as an injury replacement and was a regular fixture as the team’s quarter back (not to be confused with quarterback) in 2013. His greatest asset had long been his intelligence and his understanding of the defense, and that helped him on and off the field with his coaches and teammates.

The Steelers are, of course, looking ahead, however, with Robert Golden set to replace him in the starting lineup, who made his first three starts last year in his place while injured. Sean Davis was drafted in the second round to be the future at the position.

Allen, meanwhile, is still waiting for the phone to ring with some NFL team on the other line, but he has already forged ahead with his backup plan, and appears set to pursue a future in energy technology when his playing days are done, whether that is now or a year from now.

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