All season it has been “next man up” for the Pittsburgh Steelers as the amount of injuries this season has been insane.
However the recent injury to cornerback Ike Taylor could turn out to be the most costly one of all.
That next-man-up theory will be tested when second-year pro Cortez Allen will be called on to replace Taylor, who has played at an All-Pro level this season.
Allen and fellow second-year pro Curtis Brown will see extensive playing time when the Steelers (7-5) take on the San Diego Chargers (4-8) Sunday afternoon at Heinz Field.
With Taylor in the lineup, the Steelers are tops in the NFL against the pass, having not allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards in seven consecutive weeks.
The bigger, bulkier Allen — who at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds is an inch taller and 11 pounds heavier than Brown — will start at cornerback then slide into his usual nickel spot in passing situations while Brown replaces him on the outside.
It’s a setup that plays to their strengths. Brown is better going one-on-one on the outside, where his quickness and instincts can overcome mistakes, while Allen’s cerebral approach makes him a perfect fit for the sometimes complex coverage assignments.
After Taylor went down against the Ravens, Baltimore had some success targeting Allen early on, but mysteriously went away from him in the second half. You can bet that Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers will know exactly where the two youngsters are on every play.
For the Steelers to make a run at the playoffs, their secondary must continue to play at a very high level.
That puts a ton of pressure on both Allen and Brown. We will find out on Sunday if they are up to the challenge.