The Steelers have been focusing on the secondary this offseason, which raises the question: Where is Cortez Allen?
Where is Cortez Allen? What is he doing? Will he ever play for the Steelers again? Will he ever be not getting paid by the Steelers? Will he ever start? What happened? It’s all very strange and not very clear what is going on with Cortez Allen so let’s just gather up all the information we do know and see if we can figure it out.
Just recently I, as many a Steelers fan has, was thinking about the Steelers secondary. I thought of the corners we retained and the ones we lost. Later on I realized I had forgotten about Cortez Allen. I remembered Doran Grant though. So why does a Steeler fan, when listing cornerbacks, think of a player who is on the practice squad before I remember a guy making 5 million a year?
Because they both pretty much made the same impact on the Steelers come game day. The Steelers secondary is all too packed with players who were supposed to be starters by now. Sharmarko Thomas was supposed to step in for Troy while and Cortez Allen was going to be the next Ike Taylor. But with hands!
Didn’t work out that way. So just to recap. Cortez Allen was picked in the 4th round of the 2011 draft out of Citadel. His first year he played mostly special teams but got into almost all the games. Somewhat ominously though he did spend much of training camp injured.
In 2012 he got to play corner more and even started 3 games. He made 55 tackles, forced 3 fumbles, and got 2 interceptions. This impressed the Steelers and gave them enough confidence in Allen to allow Keenan Lewis to leave and be signed by the Saints. At the time the Steelers were under even more cap pressure so it seemed like a smart move to let Lewis get a payday and lock up Allen now.
In 2013 Allen started half of the games and played in most of them. He did struggle with injuries throughout the season however. Allen still managed to make 51 tackles and get another pair of interceptions including one for a touchdown. Despite ample reason to have cooled on Allen after the 2013 the Steelers still signed him to a 5 year, 26 million dollar deal.
This contract was very confusing and examining it leads to only more questions. Obviously, they were off on Allen’s worth to the tune of 10 million dollars thus far, and counting. But it’s not just that he hasn’t played up to expectations, it’s that no one would have given him that contract at the time. It was not only more money than it should have been, it was more money than it needed to be.
It also makes the events of 2014 that much more confusing. So Allen was not the starter on the depth chart at the beginning of the season. The Steelers were willing to give him 5 million, but couldn’t have him covering anyone better than the 3rd best wideout on a team. Regardless, Taylor got injured and Allen stepped in. He started off hot, getting interceptions in consecutive games.
Something went wrong in 2014 however, he ended the season sitting on the bench. Coaches were asked about it. His health seems to often be a concern. They cited giving up big plays. They also made vague mentions of confidence issues. Allen did give up some big plays, but more than Antwon Blake? Yet the coaches bench Allen and defend Blake. And again, yet, they pay Allen 5 million dollars and let Blake walk.
In 2015 Allen played 1 single game and was injured for the rest of the season. Where does that leave us? Where does that leave Allen? What is the status of his situation. Well, he’s come up this offseason. He’s come up in two ways, in interviews and contract negotiations, neither of which are positive.
Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, and other Steelers have sounded pretty openly pessimistic about Cortez Allen when his name comes up. For example, Mike Tomlin said when asked if his opinion has changed for the better over whether Allen will be a contributor, from Mark Kaboly of Triblive. com,
"“Not at all. It hasn’t. I don’t know where his level of health is. I don’t think that any of us do. He has some health issues, obviously,” Tomlin said. “I don’t know where he is in terms of his schedule of rehabilitation, but I am sure at some point in this process we are going to have a sense of where he is and what he is able to do, those types of things. I just don’t have the answers to that as we sit here today.”"
In addition ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler has reported that the Steelers have asked Cortez Allen to take a pay cut. This is good and bad news. It’s bad because obviously they’re saying give us our money back. But it’s also good because it means the Steelers haven’t totally given up on him, or else they’d just release him. But it’s mostly bad news because when a team brings this up to a player the leverage is ultimately they’ll release him otherwise.
So where do things stand with Cortez Allen? I don’t know.