The fact that Marcus Allen even made it onto the 53-man roster was something of a minor surprise, considering that the rookie fifth-round draft pick missed most of rookie minicamp, OTAs, minicamp, and then much of training camp and the preseason. The Pittsburgh Steelers ended up carrying six safeties into the season, but it wasn’t long before Nat Berhe was placed on injured reserve.
Though he survived the first cut as a rookie, that didn’t help him get onto the field at all. He spent the first 11 games of his rookie season as a healthy scratch until the opportunity arose for him to play on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Allen would go on to see 17 snaps on defense during the game, spending about half of his time in the box and half of his time in coverage. His debut would be a mixed bag that seemed to include a less than ideal angle on the Justin Jackson touchdown run late, but he also had some positive plays.
With Morgan Burnett sidelined all week due to a back injury that prevented him from playing and cornerback Cameron Sutton having a family medical issue that he had to attend to that pulled him away from practice, Allen tells Jacob Klinger that he got reps in the dime defense all week after having been limited only to scout team snaps up to then throughout the whole year.
He said that he knew that meant he would be playing, because they wouldn’t be giving him those reps if they didn’t intend to use him. And he said that Head Coach Mike Tomlin checked in on him before the on-field practice portion of the week started, asking him how the sub-package meeting was going and that they would see on the field.
Allen recalled something Tomlin told him even before he made the 53-man roster, something that he would take to heart. “It’s better to be ready than to get ready”, his coach told him, meaning that you want to be prepared for any situation even before you know that you’ll have to be in it.
It’s not clear why Allen was chosen to play in the dime over Jordan Dangerfield, who had been playing in certain sub-packages and as an injury fill-in at safety during the year. He even previously started two games for the Steelers back in 2016.
Still, while it was surely a nice moment for the rookie safety, the odds are that he may well be heading back to the inactive list with Sutton returning. The Steelers liked Allen a lot coming out of the draft and saw him as a steal in the fifth round, but his value may be more long-term than as a rookie who missed so much of the offseason because of a string of injuries.