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: Marcus Allen will continue to grow into the linebacker role this season and carve out a career of some kind at that position.
Explanation: Position changes are not all too common, though hardly without precedent, either. Naturally, successful position changes are somewhat more rare. Marcus Allen is in the process of one of his own, moving from safety to inside linebacker last year, now with the benefit of a full offseason.
The bar can be pretty low in terms of carving out a career, so as long as he continues to increasingly make himself useful on special teams, which is what he did in 2020, there is no reason to predict that he should be falling out of the league any day now.
We do know that the Steelers clearly like Allen, and have since they drafted him. Even when he was demoted to the practice squad at the start of his second season in 2019, Mike Tomlin was vocal in encouraging him to keep his head up and keep working for when he gets back to the 53.
The fact that the Steelers were willing to play him over an actual linebacker when there were injuries at the position makes it pretty clear that they genuinely view him as a linebacker, one capable of playing the position, and he is a part of the depth there, which, without him, they might be lacking.
Not only is a long career for Allen far from in the cards, it’s not even assured that it will expand into the 2021 season. Players in Allen’s position always exist from year to year, and the Steelers, with Devin Bush, Vince Williams, Robert Spillane, and Ulysees Gilbert III, if all healthy and all retained, already have a capable four-man group at the position.
And that is before they even approach the position in the draft, which is probably likely. Williams, either way, is entering the final year of his contract and is 31 years old. He’s not going to have much time left in the league, already with an eight-year career.
The issue for players like Allen is that he is caught in between two positions. He’s not athletic enough to be a safety full-time nor big enough to be a linebacker full-time. At a time when depth is more secure, he’s going to be left as the odd man out.