The Pittsburgh Steelers are now training camp, following the most unique offseason in the NFL since at least World War II. While it didn’t involve a player lockout, teams still did not have physical access to their players, though they were at least able to meet with them virtually.
Even training camp will look much different from the norm, and a big part of that will be the fact that there will be no games along the way to prepare for. There will be no preseason played in 2020, so the first time the Steelers take the field in 2020 will be for the season opener against the New York Giants.
Before we get there, however, there are a number of issues that are outstanding on this team, and this year’s edition of training camp will not provide the level of thoroughness that teams are normally used to in trying to answer those questions.
Questions like, what is the starting offensive line going to look like? Will it include Zach Banner or Chukwuma Okorafor? Who will be the primary nose tackle? How will Ben Roethlisberger look—and the other quarterbacks as well? Now, we even have questions about whether or not players will be in quarantine.
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How close is Marcus Allen to becoming a roster lock?
It’s rare for a late-round pick to make a regression in his second season, falling to the practice squad after spending his rookie year on the 53-man roster, only to make a comeback of sorts. Marcus Allen is looking to do just that after spending the majority of the 2019 season on the practice squad until the man who took his spot, Kameron Kelly, was arrested.
Beyond the starters, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds, he and Jordan Dangerfield are the only returning safeties from last season. But they drafted Antoine Brooks in the sixth round and signed veteran Curtis Riley in training camp, who has been making plays and even ran with the first-team defense when Edmunds missed some time.
It seems as though Riley and Dangerfield are the safest bets to make the roster, but there is a good chance they keep three backup safeties. Recently, Allen has been getting work at inside linebacker, a position at which the Steelers are thin, so his versatility there is a significant feather in his cap.
Then again, when the team drafted Brooks, general manager Kevin Colbert literally called him ‘half a linebacker, half a safety’. They obviously believe he can do the same thing they’re asking Allen to do. It seems whoever the fifth safety is will also essentially be the fifth inside linebacker. But Allen has two years in the system in addition to playing experience. Brooks didn’t even have OTAs.