The Pittsburgh Steelers liked Marcus Allen a lot coming out of Penn State, even though they took him in the fifth round. There are a few things to consider in reconciling their view of him and where he was picked up. For one thing, they had already signed two safeties in free agency at that point, and used a first-round pick on one earlier in the draft.
For another, they didn’t have a pick in the fourth round. So when their first pick in the fifth round came up and Allen was still there, they pounced on him, and the Steelers ended up starting that season with six safeties—Sean Davis, Morgan Burnett, Nat Berhe, Jordan Dangerfield, Terrell Edmunds, and Allen.
He spent most of his rookie season as a healthy scratch, but did see action in two games, even playing the dime, but a year later, in a season in which they only carried four safeties (and six cornerbacks), he found himself on the practice squad until Kameron Kelly was arrested late in the proceedings.
So he did finish 2019 on the 53-man roster, and he is looking to keep his spot there, even with the additions of Antoine Brooks and Curtis Riley this offseason. And he is looking to his versatility as a hybrid sub-package player as the key to that.
In fact, his work with the linebackers over the past week was about all reporters could talk about when they interviewed him earlier today, himself noting that it wasn’t a new role for him. “I played the position in college at Penn State”, he said. “Penn State used me mostly in the box, so I’m kind of familiar with the position”.
Still, he said that he hasn’t done anything different this offseason in terms of his physical conditioning, not taking steps to bulk up, for example. He told reporters that he weighs about 215 pounds—which is the weight that he is listed under on the team’s website, a rare synchronicity with reality.
“I feel comfortable wherever they want to play me”, he said. “That linebacker role’s nothing different from playing the dime role when I was at Penn State coming down, reading the blocks, reading pullers, setting edges, all those things. Safeties have to do that in general. In today’s football, they come down in the box, so as far as that being new or anything, I wouldn’t say that it’s foreign to me or anything. It’s just regular football”.
So how do you play that more physical brand of football closer to the box without bulking up? What advice did he get from inside linebackers coach Jerry Olsavsky about how to win at his size? The same thing Mark Barron learned when converting from linebacker to safety: “speed”.
At this current point in time, the Steelers only have four true inside linebackers on their roster. They frequently carry five on their 53, and often add a sixth (or at least a fifth) on the practice squad. So they appear to be sincere in viewing Allen as part of the depth here.