The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed to have an abundance at cornerback this offseason, but when it came time to assemble the 53-man roster, only five of them ultimately made the cut. A sixth, second-year cornerback Brian Allen, was retained on the practice squad. But there’s a good chance that he gets called up to the 53-man roster later today.
With starting left outside cornerback Joe Haden doubtful to play tomorrow with a hamstring injury, and Artie Burns having suffered a toe injury in practice yesterday despite being likely to play, the team is losing bodies or suffering damage, and that is an issue.
That is at least in part because, for some reason, Danny Smith has decided that it’s a good idea to use his starting cornerbacks as jammers on the punt return units. This is something that I wrote about and opposed last season, and something that continued in the opener.
Haden and Burns were the team’s primary gunners for long stretches of the season, but Allen ultimately worked into one of those roles. The 6’2” cornerback even did pretty well at it, all things considered, given that it’s one of the more difficult jobs in football.
Assuming that Haden misses the game, that would mean that Cameron Sutton would start. Sutton was already playing as a gunner and also saw time as a jammer and some on the kick coverage unit as well, even the field goal blocking unit, playing 22 special teams snaps.
Should he start, the team is surely going to want to take some of those snaps away. Those snaps could go to Coty Sensabaugh, the Steelers’ fifth cornerback, who was a healthy scratch in the season opener. If they also want to limit Burns’ special teams snaps—he saw 15 in all—that could call for Allen being promoted and used as an active as well.
It probably wouldn’t be any easier for him to dress, though. While David DeCastro will be an extra injured body, and Tyson Alualu as well, they will be switched laterally on the inactive list for Matt Feiler and L.T. Walton, respectively. In addition to that, it sounds like Vance McDonald is going to play after being inactive a week ago.
But considering the fact that the team ended up using James Washington as a jammer late in the game, I would like to think they might make room for Allen. In order to do so, the obvious area to cut would be safety, and sorry as I am to say this, the low man on the totem pole may well be Marcus Allen, who was a healthy scratch last week.
If not him, vested veteran Nat Berhe could be released and re-signed after the game, which is a common tactic. Despite being brought in for his special teams ability, the odd reality is that he only played nine snaps on special teams, limited to the kickoff units.