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: Safety Marcus Allen will take a step forward in year three and earn a role with the team.
Explanation: The Steelers had no need at safety when they drafted Marcus Allen in the fifth round in 2018. They already had one starter and signed another in free agency, in addition to another depth player, and then drafted one in the first round. They still had Jordan Dangerfield as well. The team drafted him because they thought he represented great value at that spot, but so far, his playing time hasn’t indicated it.
Were it not for the rapid rise of Kameron Kelly, coming out of nowhere as an AAF refugee—and were it not for the six-man-deep cornerback position, with multi-positional players there—Marcus Allen would have been on the 53-man roster all of last season.
That is why he was called up to replace Kelly once he was arrested, and that is where he will pick up in 2020. He appears to be a shoe-in for the 53-man roster, and should be ahead of Dangerfield for any playing time, who is maintained as a special teamer, one of their most important contributors in that area.
Allen has had some injury setbacks during his first two seasons, and there hasn’t really been a role for him, but Mike Tomlin has seemed to be pleased with the growth he made while he was on the practice squad for the majority of the 2019 season, something to build in for 2020.
With the team expecting to lose Sean Davis, the Steelers figure to address the safety position in some meaningful way this offseason, whether with a free agent or a draft pick, to provide some quality depth. Allen and Dangerfield are the only notable backups for now, and that’s clearly not enough.
Last season, we saw the team shift from a quarter-preferred team to a true dime-preferred team, meaning that they used a fourth cornerback instead of a third safety when they go to six defensive backs. Cameron Sutton will keep Allen from having a role outside of special teams, assuming he does make the roster.