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: Two years after he was drafted, Marcus Allen will not make the Steelers’ 53-man roster or practice squad.
Explanation: A 2018 fifth-round pick, Allen already failed to make the team a year ago, but he was on the practice squad, and was called up late in the year after Kameron Kelly was arrested and subsequently released from the team. The Steelers have since drafted Antoine Brooks at safety.
The Steelers did have six safeties on the team for a while there in 2018, but it seems as often as not that they are more likely to go into a year with four. I think it was in 2013, for example, that they were willing to enter the season with just second-year undrafted free agent Robert Golden and rookie Shamarko Thomas as their backups to Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark on their last legs.
Granted, that was seven years ago now, but just last year, their only two backups were Jordan Dangerfield and Kelly, who was a first-year undrafted free agent signed from the XFL. Dangerfield is a career special-teamer. This was just six months ago.
It’s highly possible that Dangerfield and Brooks are the two and only two safeties to back up Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds this season. It’s equally possible that somebody else makes the team as a fifth safety, the way Kelly came out of the blue.
And if Brian Allen is anything to go by, the Steelers tend to let go of their late-round picks when they regress. First year, 53. Second year, practice squad. Third year—if he’s still not where he needs to be, it’s time to say goodbye unless he’s an important player on special teams.
That last bit, however, is the kicker. Allen is a player who can make himself useful on special teams. One of the reasons he’s had trouble sticking is because he’s dealt with injuries in the offseason in each of his first two years.
And if worse comes to worst and he still doesn’t make the 53-man roster again, the Steelers do still clearly like him. The practice squad is expanded to 12 spots this year, and he’s eligible. There’s no reason he wouldn’t be kept there, even one of two safeties. In an uncertain offseason like this, he at least would be someone with years of experience in the system that they could turn to in an emergency and trust that he knows the play.