With the Pittsburgh Steelers down to just four inside linebackers, Marcus Allen has been asked to temporarily wear that hat. And his versatility could earn him an extended stay not only at the position but a place on the roster.
Allen reportedly worked as an inside linebacker during parts of practice Thursday. Asked about the move after practice, Mike Tomlin explained his physical skillset and emerging mental skillset made him a logical choice to plug the hole at the position.
“We’ve played Marcus Allen some at linebacker,” Tomlin told reporters. “He’s a guy to show us a position flexibility. He’s playing strong safety and some inside linebacker. So that really kind of fortifies depth in that area when from a perception standpoint, we might be running thin.
I think he’s shown understanding in terms of how he’s communicating, whether it’s at linebacker or safety, his pre-snap communication skills, the way that he adjusts shows growth and development in terms of our overall scheme. And that allows him to display the position flexibility. Marcus has always had the physical skills to do both jobs, but intellectual skills, the overall understanding of the big picture allows those things and those skills to come out in a football way.”
The Steelers came into the month with six inside linebackers. But UDFA John Houston Jr. was cut as the team trimmed to an 80 man roster while fellow UDFA Leo Lewis was released today as the team signed OLB Jayrone Elliott to the squad. That left just Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Ulysees Gilbert III, and Robert Spillane as the four true inside linebackers.
A 5th round pick in 2018, Allen hasn’t found much playing time on Sundays. He’s logged around 40 total snaps, defense and special teams, making his third year a make-or-break season. Especially after the team drafted Antoine Brooks Jr. and signed Curtis Riley right before camp began. But his versatility and praise from coaches like Tom Bradley seem to put Allen on the inside of the roster after beginning the year on the bubble.
At some point, it’s possible Allen makes a full-time switch to inside linebacker. Some analysts viewed him as an inside linebacker conversion candidate coming out of Penn State. Our Josh Carney made a reference to the idea in his scouting report.
“Allen seems to be a popular name among Steelers fans as a possible solution to the safety position, but he simply isn’t very reliable in coverage. If you want another box safety, dime linebacker-type, Allen is your guy. He’ll live around the line of scrimmage and reek havoc, but aside from that, he’s not your prototypical safety.”
Moving him to inside linebacker may be more appealing this time next season. Vince Williams is in danger of becoming a cap casualty given the salary cap falloff that’s expected to occur once the season ends. That wouldn’t necessarily mean he’s a starter in waiting but would offer depth at the position along with the potential to play in a dime-type role given the fact Cam Sutton’s contract is also expiring.