Like any college starter turned rookie, Marcus Allen hated sitting on the bench in 2018. That patience may have finally paid off. Allen is poised to have a key role in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense this season. After failing to draft a safety, Mike Tomlin pointed to Allen as one of the players they anticipate having a key role in the Steelers’ sub-package defense.
A stark contrast to what he experienced as a rookie. Allen struggled to get a hat on Sunday’s and wound up playing 30 snaps. Total. 18 on defense, most of that coming in the “no smoke” loss against the Chargers, and an additional 12 on defense.
“Throughout my whole football career I’ve never had to sit the bench and wait for my opportunity,” he recently told Steelers.com’s Teresa Varley. “It was new to me. It definitely humbled me and matured me more.”
Not even during his true freshman season at Penn State did Allen sit on the bench. He played all 13 games, making seven starts, and received several accolades to All-Freshman teams. By his next season, he was their full-time starting safety. Injuries never left him on the sidelines too, missing one game in college. So sitting the way he did last year was brand new.
He took it in stride the best he can, utilizing practice as his gameday.
“I treated practice like a game. Practice for me is fun. Coach Tomlin always told me to stay ready, even if you’re not up stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
It’s a similar story we’ve heard from players like Josh Dobbs. When he was the #3 QB as a rookie, he routinely found receivers to throw with after practice. By the next year, Dobbs became the backup. For Allen, he’ll be in-line to log significant snaps.
Should he be Pittsburgh’s dime defender, and he’s the leader in the clubhouse, Allen may play north of 300 snaps. Last year, the team ran their 2-3-6 dime defense more than 37% of the time, most of any personnel grouping. Perhaps that gets reduced a bit after signing Mark Barron and drafting Devin Bush but even if that happens, dime will be used on 3rd and long and obvious passing situations (end of half, end of game).
The defense has struggled to find a competent dime defender since introducing it as part of their personnel groupings a few years ago. They’ve cycled through Robert Golden, William Gay, and Morgan Burnett as primary options. All three of those had short-lived roles in that spot, struggling to cover receivers and make splash plays in space.