While the Pittsburgh Steelers are anticipating significant leaps forward from their Day One and Day Two picks last season—Terrell Edmunds, James Washington, Mason Rudolph, and Chukwuma Okorafor, three of whom could be in the starting lineup—the Day Three guys aren’t exempt from raised expectations either.
We have already talked about fifth-round running back Jaylen Samuels on a number of occasions in reference to his potential second-year growth. He has come in at a lower weight and has discussed his intention of working a lot on his pass protection, as well as other areas of his game that he felt needed improvement.
The Steelers’ other fifth-round pick, safety Marcus Allen, is just trying to make the active roster last year after being a healthy scratch for 14 of the 16 games of his rookie season. He spent a lot of the offseason watching from the sidelines with injuries, which stunted his development and the opportunity for the coaches to gain trust in him.
Back in April following the draft, however, Head Coach Mike Tomlin specifically talked about Allen when discussing growth from the second-year class, specifically mentioning the potential for him to play the hybrid ‘dime’ linebacker role for the team. That was obviously after having already added Mark Barron and drafting Devin Bush.
When Allen was asked about it recently, he just said that “it’s up to the [coaches] what they have planned”, according to Gerry Dulac for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I just come in every day, humble, work my tail off, whatever they want, that’s what they’re going to get”.
Allen did play the dimebacker role for one game last season against the Los Angeles Chargers. Leading up to that game, primary dimebacker Morgan Burnett was injured and ended up being ruled out for the game. Secondary dimebacker Nat Berhe was already on injured reserve, while Cameron Sutton, who also played the position, was inactive after spending the week of practice away from the team for personal reasons.
So he was essentially the fourth-string dimebacker last year, and he did end up playing a couple handfuls of snaps. in my own personal evaluation of the game, I felt as though he performed better in coverage than in run support, where he had a couple of glaring mistakes in the second half.
It’s worth noting that the Steelers almost surely have done little to no work in the dime defense at this point in the offseason. They had not last year, and in fact had not begun running it until training camp, so the fact that there hasn’t been a discussion about it yet should not be surprising. The time still ended up being the Steelers’ most-used defensive package in 2018.