The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Marcus Allen will be the Steelers’ dime defender in 2019.
Explanation: Allen was essentially the third-string dime in his rookie season. In the lone game in which he saw meaningful action, his opportunity arose because Morgan Burnett was injured and Cameron Sutton had extenuating circumstances. Burnett is now gone and Allen has a year under his belt.
The Steelers’ preference has generally been to have three safeties in a six-defensive back look over four cornerbacks, as evidenced by Burnett as the dimebacker last year. Others such as Robert Golden and Tyrone Carter have served that role in the past.
Because Allen will have had a year to mature, it’s reasonable to think that the team would have more trust in him to play in 2019 than they did last season, where they nevertheless did allow him to play, when they could have opted instead for the more experienced Jordan Dangerfield.
The Steelers drafted Allen in the fifth round last year basically because they were surprised he was still available. They had already addressed the safety position earlier in the draft and didn’t need to double dip after adding two more safeties in free agency as well. He is here because the team likes him. Generally that means having a role at some point.
There are a few things that could work against Allen’s ascent up the depth chart. For starters, the Steelers could actually opt to use very little ‘true’ time in 2019 if they envision Mark Barron as being able to execute those same responsibilities from the linebacker position as a former safety. Another factor is the reality that Sutton was indeed ahead of him on the depth chart last year.
But there is still the possibility that the Steelers address the safety position in the draft with an eye toward adding a player who fits into that dimebacker role. They clearly are interested in employing that role in some capacity. Whether they feel they have already addressed it with Barron or they want to address it through the draft, Allen will have, I think, at least two competitors for the role, without even including Dangerfield.