Much has been made about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ need to upgrade the cornerback position in the offseason and the poor 2013 season that No. 1 corner Ike Taylor had.
Whether Taylor takes a pay cut and returns is a story for another day, but one thing is for certain: for the Steelers defense to return to the level it once was, Cortez Allen must take the next step and become a shutdown corner.
The Steelers think highly of Allen as they were comfortable allowing Keenan Lewis to walk last offseason, but it was an up-and-down year for Allen.
There were plenty of low points, most notably Allen’s missed tackles on Greg Jennings twice during a 70-yard catch-and-run in the Steelers loss in London to the Minnesota Vikings. But there were also some high points which included Allen’s pick-six that changed the course of the game late in the season against the Green Bay Packers.
Needless to say the Steelers expected more of those types of plays from Allen, but in his third NFL season, he didn’t deliver. Allen didn’t make the expected leap even to full-time starter.
He passes the eye test and looks like he can be a competent NFL corner, but Allen is going to have to be a whole lot better next season.
Allen is going to have to become Taylor.
By that I mean the Steelers will likely have to use him on the opposition’s top receiver more often. That was a job that belonged to Taylor for years, but also something the Steelers started to get away from late in the 2013 season.
However, after what we have seen from Allen so far, you have to ask if he is capable of assuming that responsibility.
“Of course,” Allen told Mike Prisuta of Steelers.com. “I’ve always liked to challenge myself. I’ve always wanted that challenge just to see how I match up. And it’s always fun to go against talent like that.
“Ike’s done it before me. Hopefully, one day I’ll be in that position to be the level of player that he is. It’s a day-by-day process. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can from him and the guys around me.”
The 2014 season is a big one for Allen to show he’s capable of becoming a No. 1 corner.
He is entering a contact year and if he performs well, should earn himself a big pay day. Of course there is a chance that similar to Lewis, that pay day could come from someone else, but it still is a golden opportunity for Allen.
If he takes that next step the Steelers defense will benefit from it in the long run and Allen will ultimately cash in.