There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum, hundreds upon hundreds of new players enter the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve and other non-active lists.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: S Marcus Allen
Roster Vulnerability: Low
Role Vulnerability: Medium
Although he was only drafted in the fifth round last season, Marcus Allen is a defensive back that the Steelers were high on. They had already drafted a safety by then, but when he was available to them at that portion of the draft, they could not pass up on the value, as they graded him a couple of rounds higher.
With that being said, pre-draft evaluations do not guarantee roster spots, especially not a year removed from the draft. And the reality is that Allen spent most of his rookie season on the inactive list, and only really played meaningfully in one game.
That was against the Los Angeles Chargers, and it took an injury from Morgan Burnett (as well as Nat Berhe, who was already on injured reserve at that point) and an off-field personal issue with Cameron Sutton to get him to be used as the dime back in that game.
That said, it’s not unusual for a rookie to play little and then to have a much bigger role in year two. There is a more than plausible scenario in which the offseason unfolds in such a way that sees Allen used as the team’s primary dime defender this season.
But a draft pick could completely derail that possibility and even threaten his position on the 53-man roster altogether. If they were to draft, for example, Darnell Savage in the first or second round, one would assume that he immediately becomes the dime defender.
Still, adding one safety wouldn’t exactly be a death blow for his chances of making the team. They only have four safeties on the roster right now, and they carried six last year until Berhe was injured. I think the odds are low that Allen doesn’t make the team (but he would still be re-signed to the practice squad if he isn’t claimed by another team), but the draft can definitely prevent him from having a defensive role in 2019.