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Thread: Hopes are high for 3 young CBs

  1. #31

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    With all being said, I see this competition as being a good thing. I'm not sure if Allen is ready but I'm the first to admit that I think the kid is going to be the real deal eventually .. if not this year, next. That picture of him tackling Gronkowski doesn't do it justice. Yes, it was very impressive that a CB could knock Gronk off his feet like that... but what was more impressive is that tackle caused the Pats to be 1 yard short of a first down causing them to punt.

    Brown was a monster on ST without a doubt. Historically, that is like the #1 sign of becoming a really good defensive player for the Steelers.

  2. #32

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    CBs: Dark Knights on the Rise

    By Jim Wexell
    Posted Jul 16, 2012

    The Steelers have burned through the three cornerbacks who've started opposite Ike Taylor since 2006, but they're quietly confident in the young replacements.

    There just has to be a nickname for Cortez Allen after the way he defensed Rob Gronkowski during the Steelers’ win over the New England Patriots last year.

    “The Gronk Eraser”?

    Not very magical, no, but Allen did slam the big tight end to the ground short of the sticks on the first third-down play of the second half. If nothing else, at least Allen has that memory.

    “That was one of my favorite plays,” Allen said. “The picture for it was amazing. They got me in the air like a frog. I kind of looked like Troy [Polamalu] flying around. It was a great day for me.”

    It was a great day for the Steelers, who not only beat Tom Brady, but they learned they just might have another big, physical cornerback in their pipeline.

    So, how about a nickname?

    “I’ve had so many,” Allen said. “Last year coach called me Robin. And there was “two dogs, one bone” for me and Curtis.”

    Allen and Curtis Brown were the rookie cornerbacks fighting for playing time last season, so we get that.

    But why did Mike Tomlin call Allen “Robin”?

    “I got called Robin because it seemed like every time I would be there on a tackle Curtis would be there right before me. We battled back and forth on special teams, as far as making the tackle.”

    Again, why Robin?

    “The sidekick,” Allen said.

    Oh, Batman and Robin?

    “Right. And Curtis was Batman last year. This year we’re both Batman -- Batman and Batman. It’s fun. We’re just out there working.”

    Batman, a.k.a. “The Dark Knight,” is rising in movie theaters this week. Allen and Brown hope to do the same the following week.

    “We need them this year, point blank,” said Ike Taylor. “They improved at OTAs, but we’re going to go as far as they take us.”

    Taylor, of course, is the other starting cornerback, has been the past 89 consecutive games, including post-season. The streak dates back to the last game of 2006 after then-coach Bill Cowher had benched Taylor for five games.

    Starting opposite Taylor during his iron-man stretch have been Bryant McFadden, Deshea Townsend and William Gay. But those three are gone. In their places are Batman, Batman and Keenan Lewis.

    Right now, Lewis as the edge and will most likely start the opener at left cornerback after a strong spring. But the other two, Allen and Brown, are coming off impressive rookie seasons and springs. They’ll be needed to provide depth and sub-package help.

    “They bring something different,” Taylor said. “Cortez, he’s lanky, pretty much can run with anybody. Curt, he’s quick as a cat. So you’ve got two young guys who bring something different to the table. Both of them are aggressive and like to tackle.”

    Brown, the smaller of the two at 6-0, 185, led the Steelers with 15 special teams tackles last season. The third-round pick’s 13 unassisted tackles nearly doubled the runners-up, Allen and Will Allen, who each made 7 unassisted special-teams tackles.

    But Cortez Allen, the 6-1, 196-pound fourth-round pick, saw more time – much more time – in the secondary than did Brown. Allen played in 9 games defensively before he was shut down for the playoffs because of a shoulder injury. Brown didn’t play in the secondary and missed the final four games with a knee injury.

    Brown was held out of several spring practices this year as a precaution for his knee, so Allen received more reps at the nickel position, a position that seems to be a natural spot for the smaller, more agile Brown.

    “I didn’t get a chance last two-a-days to even do that at all, so he definitely has the experience edge there,” explained Brown. “This spring has been my introduction to it. It was pretty nice. It isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I had fun doing it. Hopefully I’ll keep getting better and I might have a chance at that spot.”

    Allen is nearly identical to Taylor in size and would appear to be his replacement-in-waiting. As per the Steelers’ way, Taylor’s teaching him how.

    “He’s taught me how to be more attentive to technique, how to coach yourself, how to be critical of what you do as far as being a professional,” said Allen. “He’s a real professional. I’ve learned a lot from him just on how to play the game of football.”

    And Taylor reciprocates the feelings. He likes what he sees in both young corners.

    “I like them, so I’m confident in them,” said Taylor. “I’ll let y’all go with the ‘we’ll-see’ approach, but I’m confident in them right now.”


  3. #33

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    The two-dogs-one-bone routine certainly worked for Tomlin with Sanders and Brown a couple of years ago.

  4. #34

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    Young corners learn on the fly with Steelers

    By Mark Kaboly
    Published: Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    Cornering the position

    Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown are competing for two jobs with the Steelers’ defense:

    Ht Age Exp. T ST

    Keenan Lewis 6-0 26 4 31 4

    Cortez Allen 6-1 23 2 10 8

    Curtis Brown 6-0 23 2 0 15

    ST — special teams tackles

    Curtis Brown considers himself a documentary freak, especially when it is anything regarding the Mayans and the 2012 phenomenon.

    Brown doesn’t believe the end of the world is coming, but he believes 2012 could be the beginning of a new age … for the Steelers’ secondary.

    The Steelers used consecutive picks in last year’s draft on cornerbacks, selecting Brown in the third round and Cortez Allen in the fourth, with the idea that they might eventually solidify what has long been viewed as the defense’s biggest weakness.

    A year later, Allen and Brown have put together two solid weeks of training camp, and have legitimate shots of being in the starting lineup when the Steelers open the season Sept. 9 in Denver. That comes with a caveat — they need to stay healthy.

    Both missed large portions of camp as rookies with hamstring injuries that stunted their development. Allen played some snaps last year, particularly during the 25-18 win over New England in Week 8, but Brown was relegated to special teams before a knee injury landed him on injured reserve late in the year.

    For Brown, the injury bug was something new.

    “I was hurt before, sure, but not that bad that had me miss that much practice,” Brown said. “Last year was difficult for me.”

    Allen feels the same way.

    “It is very important for me to stay healthy,” Allen said.

    Brown (6-foot, 185) is pushing Keenan Lewis for the starting left cornerback position, and Allen (6-1, 196) has been the first-team nickel back since the spring.

    Both have been impressive, especially Allen, who had a spectacular downfield interception during a two-minute drill last week.

    “He knows what it takes, and he wants it,” veteran cornerback Ike Taylor said of Allen. “He wants to get better. The good thing I like about Cortez is he doesn’t say much, he comes to work and he does what he needs to do.”

    Taylor also said, “This dude could be way better than me — if he can stay healthy.”

    Allen never played nickel at The Citadel, and was introduced to it during the offseason because of need after William Gay signed with Arizona. The nickel in Dick LeBeau’s defense plays about 50 percent of the snaps, so it’s viewed as an important position to the Steelers.

    “You have a lot to learn as far as what everybody else is doing,” Allen said. “There are different ways to play to put yourself in better positions. I learned a lot of that from Troy (Polamalu) as far the way he cheats the system as far as him making plays.”

    Brown has more of an uphill battle to supplant Lewis, who replaced Gay at left corner in the nickel last year.

    Brown turned heads on special teams by leading the team in tackles before getting injured, but he’s yet to play a defensive snap in the league.

    “Keenan and Cortez had snaps last year, I didn’t,” said Brown, who also has been working at nickel. “So my competition is with myself trying to get better so that when my name is called I will be able to perform.”

    The first opportunity will come Thursday during the Steelers’ first preseason game at Philadelphia.

    “Every game is important,” Allen said. “It is a good chance for us to utilize the stuff we have been working on during training camp.”


  5. #35

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    Curtis Brown considers himself a documentary freak, especially when it is anything regarding the Mayans and the 2012 phenomenon.

    Brown doesn’t believe the end of the world is coming, but he believes 2012 could be the beginning of a new age … for the Steelers’ secondary.
    Wasn't the Spanish conquistador who was primarily responsible for the collapse of the Aztec Empire named Cortez?...weird. (Cortez may have also played somewhat of a small role in the Mayan's downfall as well, but you'd have to ask the expert Curtis Brown about that) son had to do a project on explorers in the last school year, so he was researching a bunch of them, but his report ultimately focused on Jacques Cartier up in Canada instead, if I remember correctly.

  6. #36

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    Article on Cortez Allen:


    I think Allen has a shot to be a real impact corner. Regardless of whether he starts, he'll certainly see a lot of playing time, and should be a nice injection of youth and athleticism to the D.

  7. #37

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    Steelers’ young cornerbacks learning lessons the hard way

    By Ralph N. Paulk
    Published: Friday, August 10, 2012

    PHILADELPHIA — Steelers cornerback Curtis Brown was surprisingly upbeat as he stood alone Thursday night near his locker inside Lincoln Financial Field.

    Brown’s head was up and his spirits high moments after surrendering 70- and 44-yard touchdown passes on consecutive plays in the third quarter of the Steelers’ 24-23 defeat in their exhibition opener. It was baptism under fire for a second-year defensive back auditioning for the starting job opposite veteran Ike Taylor.

    “Those were physical, not necessarily mental (mistakes),” coach Mike Tomlin said. “(Brown) was there to make a play on (the ball). He’s just got to make a play on it. On another one, we had the quarterback in the backfield, and we just left our feet, which allowed him to get out of the pocket and create space and time, and our coverage broke down.”

    Despite the lapses in concentration, Brown didn’t pout. He seemed eager to get back to work Saturday at St. Vincent College to prepare for Indianapolis on Aug. 19 at Heinz Field.

    “If you let something like this get to you, then you’re not fit for this game,” Brown said. “All I can do is evaluate myself and fix my mistake. ... It’s all fixable.”

    Brown, with defensive backs coach Carnell Lake grading the highs and lows of an uneven performance, couldn’t afford to beat himself up. After all, no one would let him.

    “We don’t have time for pointing fingers, and (Brown) can’t feel sorry for himself,” said Taylor, who played sparingly before being relieved by Brown. “Nobody is going to feel sorry for you in this game.”

    Brown and Cortez Allen, the Steelers’ third- and fourth-round picks, respectively, in the 2011 NFL Draft, were schooled by a promising corps of young Philadelphia receivers who amassed 280 receiving yards, three touchdowns and 13 first-down catches. The lessons were less about technique than about willingness to overcome adversity.

    Both flunked an early exam when the Eagles deployed two receivers to the strong side of the formation. While quarterback Nick Foles was eluding a pass rush, the cornerbacks lost sight of rookie receiver Damaris Johnson, who gathered in a floater for the 70-yard score.

    If Brown and Allen are to challenge Keenan Lewis for the corner spot left vacant by William Gay’s departure, they’ll also need to be more consistent against the run.

    At times they were caught out of position after Philadelphia’s running backs turned up field. Or they struggled to shed blockers, as Brown did when receiver Marvin McNutt tied him up to spring Bryce Brown for a 33-yard gain after the Eagles had taken a 14-13 lead.

    Brown seemed to be ready on the next snap. He blanketed receiver Mardy Gilyard but failed to dislodge the ball as the two wrestled for possession near the goal line on the 44-yard scoring play.

    “I should have looked up,” Brown said. “I had him covered pretty well, but I just didn’t take my eyes to the sky. Those are things that can be fixed in practice.

    “The other play, I just fell. If you can’t stay on your feet, those things will happen. It’s a preseason game to see where I’m at, but I need to continue to work on my technique.”

    Tomlin said errors are sometimes critical in terms of the outcome but added they can be good lessons learned.

    “They have to learn on their own,” Taylor said. “I can only tell them so much. They have to understand things happen. Whether it’s a mental lapse, you have to go through some adversity. They have to experience it in games, the trials and errors.”

    Safety Troy Polamalu is confident the Steelers’ second-year cornerbacks will be ready when the regular season begins on Sept. 9 in Denver.

    “This is what the preseason is for, but it’s time for us to get better,” he said. “You try not to lose your confidence. You can tell there was a little pressure, a little more panic when you’re in game mode.

    “It’ll come with time and experience. We’ve all given up plays. It’s better to do it now.”

    Last edited by hawaiiansteel; 08-11-2012 at 09:50 PM.

  8. #38

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    Steelers cornerbacks using size to their advantage

    By Alan Robinson
    Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis goes through drills during practice on the South Side Aug. 23, 2012.

    By the numbers

    The Steelers’ pass defense rankings by season, with starting cornerbacks:

    2011, No. 1, 171.9 yards/game, Ike Taylor, William Gay

    2010, No. 12, 214.1 yards/game, Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden

    2009, No. 16, 215.4 yards/game, Ike Taylor, William Gay

    2008, No. 1, 156.9 yards/game, Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden

    2007, No. 3, 176.5 yards/game, Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend

    Nothing was going to hold back Keenan Lewis from winning the Steelers’ starting cornerback job opposite Ike Taylor. Especially not a holdout.

    Lewis and wide receiver Mike Wallace have been close friends since their childhood days in New Orleans, with each starring at Perry Wallace High. They took different paths in college — Lewis to Oregon State, Wallace to Mississippi — but they were reunited when the Steelers drafted both in the third round in 2009.

    Wallace became a starter and a big-yardage producer by his second season, while Lewis played mostly special teams until shifting into a more important role last season. They went their separate ways again last spring, if only briefly.

    With Wallace possessing by far more bargaining power of the two, he chose not to sign his $2.742 million tender and held out, though he is expected back by next week. Lewis chose to sign his $1.26 million tender so he could compete for the starting job left vacant when William Gay wasn’t brought back.

    With two preseason games remaining, Lewis appears to have the position locked up. Cortez Allen officially remains in the competition but is all but set as the nickel back. Lewis officially started only one game last season but played regularly because Gay shifted into the nickel back role whenever the Steelers lined up with an extra defensive back, which they did on about half of all downs.

    “Our pass-defense numbers improved dramatically last year, and a great reason for that was the play of those three,” defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said Thursday, referring to Taylor, Lewis and Allen.

    With three big corners — Taylor is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds-plus, Allen is 6-1 and 200 and Lewis is 6-0 and 208 — LeBeau and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake can take a more aggressive approach in defending top wide receivers than they did when the smaller Gay and Bryant McFadden started. Those two alternated as starters every season from 2008-11, with McFadden leaving for one season (2009) to play for Arizona.

    “We feel fortunate to have corners with that kind of length,” LeBeau said. “We’ve had Ike for some time. Yet when people see him in person they say, ‘We didn’t know he was that big.’ Ike is a big corner. Both Keenan and Cortez are very tall, reasonably well-weighted corners, and all three can run.”

    When the Steelers had smaller cornerbacks, they often were forced to play one off the line of scrimmage to avoid physical mismatches. Now they can choose to play Taylor and Lewis — or Allen — in press coverage. Against the Patriots last season, Allen usually lined up against 6-6, 265-pound tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had three touchdown catches against the Steelers the season before.

    “Coach Lake played both safety and corner, and he’s done a great job of the fundamentals of press coverage,” LeBeau said. “We like to press e_SEmD it gives a little tighter window for the quarterback. These guys are pretty accurate up here, and we like to mix it up. When we can, we like to challenge the receivers.”

    The Steelers are not only bigger in the secondary, they’re also becoming more stable. No one has started consecutive seasons at left cornerback — the spot opposite Taylor — since Deshea Townsend from 2004-07, but Lewis could change that.

    Not that they are providing much of a hint during the preseason how they will line up against Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning’s receivers — the starters are Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker — Sept. 9 in Denver.

    “We’ll vary our looks. Sometimes we’ll press both. Sometimes we’ll press none. Sometimes we’ll use one up and one back. We don’t want the quarterback to get any pre-snap reads on the corners to see who’s up and who’s off,” LeBeau said.

    For now, Lewis isn’t proclaiming he’s won the job.

    “Definitely, I have things to work on,” he said. “I just come out and compete. I don’t try to worry about anybody’s spots. I just try to get better day by day. When you are out there with the 1s (the starters), there are always opportunities. But, like I said, you can make plays any point in time. Whenever they need me, I am ready to go.”

    There’s no turning back now.



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