Arguably one of the more surprising personnel decisions that the Pittsburgh Steelers made over the 48 hour beginning on cutdown day was to leave the 53-man roster with six safeties on it, among them rookie fifth-round pick Marcus Allen. He missed the majority of the offseason with soft-tissue injuries, but came back to play the final two preseason games, and showed well for himself overall to make the team.
Allen played all of the second half for the Steelers in the preseason finale against the Carolina Panthers, and it didn’t take him long to get involved. With the Panthers backed up in their own end, showing a two-tight end heavy set to his side, he was up in the box and was able to force his way inside to make the tackle on a first-down run for four yards.
Fast forward all the way into the fourth quarter. The Panthers are now in the red zone, facing first and 10. Allen is once again in the box lined up in the slot over the tight end. As the back runs a flat route, he makes a break for the play, but is juked and misses the tackle, giving up the first down and setting up a first and goal. Outside of this play, he was a pretty sure tackler though.
As on this play. once again playing in the box on third and one, the rookie makes his moved to hit the hole against the run. In actuality, he avoids making the big hit here, which is probably the only thing that prevents a conversion, but he was penalized earlier in the game under the new helmet rule already, so perhaps was gun-shy.
A few plays after the conversion, he made a great play that turned into an awful one, laying a big hit on a receiver after making a reception to jar the ball loose, but the offense ended up recovering it in the end zone for a touchdown.
The most important job of the safety is ultimately to get the man with the ball on the ground as soon as possible. A lot of times, that man is going to be bigger than you. This is how you cleanly bring them down, a nice shot to the hip.
What is worth noting is that Allen played 38 snaps on special teams in the three preseason games in which he participated. He played 22 snaps there in the preseason finale. Still, with Terrell Edmunds, Nat Berhe, and perhaps Jordan Dangerfield all also enjoying primary special teams roles, getting a helmet is going to be difficult for the rookie.