Now that the 2021 season is over, bringing yet another year of disappointment, a fifth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the season and into the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. In some cases, it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances, it will be a direct response to something that just happened. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: ILB Marcus Allen
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: The Steelers drafting yet another inside linebacker continues to put added pressure on players toward the bottom of the depth chart, like veteran fourth-year man Marcus Allen, to carve out their niches and make themselves difficult to cut.
Marcus Allen, the former safety out of Penn State, is a player the Steelers have liked for a while—enough that they drafted him in the fifth round in 2018 even after having already signed a starting safety in free agency that year, as well as another safety, and then drafted a safety in the first round.
That hasn’t guaranteed him consistent employment on the 53-man roster. He spent most of the 2019 season on the practice squad, for example, but has been up for the past two years, making himself valuable on special teams. He played more than 300 snaps for Danny Smith’s units during the 2021 season, compared to 62 snaps on defense.
But the room is getting crowded. While they swapped out Joe Schobert in favor of Myles Jack, the Steelers also return from last season Devin Bush, Robert Spillane, Buddy Johnson, and Ulysees Gilbert III, in addition to Allen himself.
To the group they have added seventh-round draft pick Mark Robinson, who distinguishes himself from the rest of the group as being a thumper, a skill set they are perhaps primed to find appealing at the moment given how the position performed against the run last season.
Needless to say, special teams will be essential to Robinson’s candidacy for a spot on the 53-man roster, and that could very well come at the expense of Allen’s spot, or Gilbert’s or even Johnson’s, even though the latter was a fourth-round draft pick just a year ago.
At the end of the day, they now have seven inside linebackers competing for what will likely be five roster spots, unless they really intend to carry six again as they did last year. That would require a very heavy concentration of some of the team’s best special-teams players, which is not outside the realm of reasonableness.