As I mentioned earlier today, the Pittsburgh Steelers saw the debut of not one but two rookies on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. One of them was Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, a college free agent who was just activated from the injured reserve list.
The other was Marcus Allen, the fifth-round safety who has been on the 53-man roster all season, but had never dressed before that game. He not only dressed, he also served as the team’s dimeback with both Morgan Burnett and Cameron Sutton unavailable.
Allen’s first snap on the field came early in the game on second and nine just two minutes into the game. The play didn’t go in his direction, but the point is that he had sound coverage against Antonio Gates on the play, which was his primary assignment throughout the game.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Philip Rivers tossed a short pass to Austin Ekeler out in the flat. Allen made a good break on the play at the line of scrimmage, but wasn’t able to complete the tackle. Anthony Chickillo was credited with the primary tackle, Allen recording an assist.
But his run defense in the second half was an issue. In the highlight below, Allen is up in the box at the linebacker level (the tackler, Sean Davis, is the highlighted player). The rookie was not set at the snap and was unable to get into the backfield in time to make a tackle on third and one, Justin Jackson picking up three yards for the conversion.
Allen was also swallowed up by a kickout block by the right guard that allowed Ekeler to pick up seven yards inside the red zone. While he would not be expected to make the tackle on this play, he was completely out-physicaled and did nothing to narrow the running lane.
The same thing happened on the opposite side of the field on Jackson’s 18-yard touchdown run, with the left guard throwing the kickout block that gave Jackson the inside lane.
The Steelers valued Allen coming out of the draft as a big, physical, solid tackler, but that isn’t necessarily what he showed in his debut. If anything, his work in coverage was better. It may be a while before he gets on the field again just because of the pecking order anyway, however, so he still has plenty of time to learn.