I don’t think it’ll come as a surprise but it sounds like when the Pittsburgh Steelers roll their dime package, Marcus Allen will be the 6th defensive back you see on the field. In an article that centered around Tyler Matakevich trying to keep his roster spot, the PPG’s Brian Batko snuck in this quote from Allen about his offseason work.
Allen referenced recording an interception in a 7 on 7 drill near the end of spring practices.
“Just to show coaches I can play in that post, I can go in the box and bang it out, and I can cover in the box, and play in that dime,” Allen said. “I just wanted to show them my versatility, and that was an opportunity to show it.”
The “post” refers to the deep, free safety, compared to playing in the box like a traditional strong safety does. The latter is how Allen has profiled since being drafted in the 5th round out of Penn State. The closer to the line of scrimmage he is, the better he’ll play.
That’s why he profiles into the dime role now vacant after Morgan Burnett’s release and the team’s surprise decision not to draft a safety. In his post-draft press conference, Mike Tomlin hinted that Allen would get a look in the dime role.
“I know that we’ve spent a lot of time grooming and talking about the development of Marcus Allen”, Tomlin said. “He’s a guy that’s going into his second year that should be able to compete for a sub-package linebacker position.”
The Steelers don’t have a lot of options for that 6th DB role unless someone surprises. Safety depth overall is thin. Jordan Dangerfield has stuck around for years but has never gotten work in dime and profiles, like it or not, as Sean Davis’ backup at free safety. There are UDFA options in PJ Locke III and Dravon Askew-Henry but they’ll have to focus on making the team first before competing for playing time.
It’s also possible the team scales back the number of dime snaps after relying on it heavily in 2018. Too heavily, honestly, using it on 1st down and even on the goal line versus New Orleans, the latter of which resulted in a predictable rushing touchdown. Having extra talent at ILB in Mark Barron and Devin Bush will give them more options and it’s realistic to expect dime usage to reflect 2016 and 2017. Only for obvious pass situations; 3rd and 5+, end of half, and end of game.
Allen will be one of several defenders under the microscope when the team hits Latrobe. They’re counting on him to make the traditional sophomore jump though unlike other players, he didn’t benefit from playing many snaps as a rookie.