Second year safety Marcus Allen has certainly seen his star slowly fade into obscurity over the last calendar year. While Allen was not a superstar by any means, the former fifth round pick has slipped from being a possible inclusion in dime packages to being an afterthought and possibly losing his place on the 53-man roster.
Before getting into why there should be concern with Allen’s lack of playing time this preseason, let’s backtrack to how the 23-year old safety got to Pittsburgh and what was expected from him.
Allen was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fifth round and had the reputation of being a hard hitting, in the box safety. A safety who played more like a linebacker, Allen seemed like a perfect fit to possibly be groomed as a regular feature in the team’s dime packages and to play as the ‘dimebacker’. Allen actually saw some time as the dimebacker last season against the Los Angeles Chargers as the team’s usual dimebacker Morgan Burnett was out injured.
Burnett, the man the Steelers thought could be the answer as a dimebacker, was released earlier this offseason, opening a clear lane for Allen to take the next step and take the role for himself. Head coach Mike Tomlin even hinted that Allen could compete for a starting role as a sub package linebacker back in April.
“I know that we’ve spent a lot of time grooming and talking about the development of Marcus Allen. He’s a guy that’s going into his second year that should be able to compete for a sub-package linebacker position,” Tomlin said.
Unfortunately for one reason or another, that has not been the case this offseason as Allen has seemingly fallen down the pecking order. Through two preseason games, the second-year safety has seen very limited action, reduced to playing with the third stringers which is definitely not where many pictured him playing earlier in the offseason.
Even though Allen forced a fumble in the Steelers’ preseason victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, it is very clear that he has fallen behind the likes of his competitors in Tomlin’s eyes. The snap counts from the Steelers’ first two preseason games tell a complete story on how the team may view Allen’s progression compared to the other safeties on the roster.
Safety defensive snap counts vs the Chiefs
Jordan Dangerfield – 41
Sean Davis – 35
P.J. Locke – 22
Kameron Kelly – 20
Marcus Allen – 19
Dravon Askew-Henry – 18
Terrell Edmunds – 12
Marcelis Branch – 9
Allen surprisingly played fewer defensive snaps than the likes of Dangerfield, Locke and Kelly which does not bode well for his roster standings. Even in the Steelers first preseason matchup, Allen struggled to notch much playing time, recording fewer defensive snaps than every safety except for Edmunds and Dangerfield.
By now it is beyond obvious that Davis and Edmunds are locked in starting roles but it looks like Dangerfield and Kelly are the ones in line for backup positions.
While predictions for the second-year safety ranged anywhere from starting in dime packages to being the team’s primary backup safety, the optimism has not lined up with the current reality. Allen has two more games left to impress his coaches and he got off to a good start with a forced fumble against the Chiefs. Now he will have to find a way to continue building off an eventful night or he will risk finding himself on the roster bubble and perhaps even on the practice squad.