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fordfixer
08-24-2010, 12:14 AM
Veteran safety Allen gets chance to start
By Mark Kaboly, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 96151.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_696151.html)

Will Allen doesn't necessarily have to enjoy the reason why, but the veteran free safety certainly will not turn down the opportunity to start alongside Troy Polamalu.

Allen will get the start at free safety for the Steelers' most important preseason game of the summer Sunday night at Invesco Field against the Denver Broncos.

Ryan Clark will sit out of the game as he did last November when the Steelers were last in the Mile High City, a 28-10 win over the Broncos on Monday Night Football.

Clark nearly died following a game in Denver in 2007 because of complications from his sickle-cell trait that prevented oxygen from flowing into his blood. He later needed operations to remove his spleen and gall bladder.

Clark was assured that he would not be affected by the thin air in Denver ever again, but the organization did not want to take a chance and made him inactive for last year's game.

They won't take that chance in a meaningless preseason game this year, either, giving Allen his first chance to spend significant time with the first team since coming over from Tampa Bay in the offseason.

"It's a tremendous opportunity, most definitely," Allen said. "To roll with the starters, they're a close-knit group, and I'm new to the team. So, to be able to play with those guys and get an opportunity to play a lot of snaps with them, it's going to be a great opportunity to be part of that."

Allen was signed as a free agent in the offseason to replace Tyrone Carter as the backup free safety to Clark. Allen also provides a significant upgrade on special teams.

He was a two-year special teams captain during his six years in Tampa Bay, but also started 24 games between 2005-06 before losing his job to rookie Tenard Jackson in 2007.

"That's the way the game is,'' Allen said. "Initially, it was a letdown, but you have to strap your boots up and make do with what you have, and I think I've done that. Throughout my career, I've fought adversity."

Allen came from Tampa Bay's "Tampa Two" defense and has found learning Dick LeBeau's zone-blitz scheme defense hard to grasp, as many before him have claimed.

LeBeau's defense is more of a read-and-react style compared to a cover style of a Tampa Two.

"Initially, it was a little tough for me to learn, but I'm starting to pick it up better every week," Allen said. "I'm understanding the concepts, but it's a growing process. And as long as you play fast and play physical, everything else will fall into place."

Allen has gotten more and more comfortable, and it shows on the field. He had two tackles against the Giants Saturday and added another on special teams.

"Will Allen is a great player, and he made a lot of good plays for us last game," linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "I can't wait to see him out there."

The main reason the Steelers signed Allen was his special teams play. Allen said he already feels like one of the leaders on the unit this year, even though he has been in town less than six months.

"I definitely feel like a leader," Allen said. "We've got some young guys, some young rookies and second-year players who need to learn how to play special teams in this league. It's different than it is in college. I played at a high level in Tampa."

Allen said he is up for whatever is asked from him.

"Whether it's in a starting role, as a backup or a special teams ace, whatever it is, I'm willing and ready to do it," he said.