Cortez wants what Ike had
Cortez wants what Ike had
Posted Feb 10, 2014
By Mike Prisuta
Cortez Allen would like the challenge of covering the opponent's best receiver each week of a season
As cornerback Ike Taylor’s role changed during his 11th season with the Steelers, third-year cornerback Cortez Allen contemplated how his responsibilities might someday likewise be altered.
The Steelers got away from specifically assigning Taylor to the opposition’s best receiver as the 2013 season progressed, and as that was happening Allen looked forward to someday assuming that role if called upon.
“Of course,” he confirmed. “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.
”Wherever I am in the defense, wherever they see fit, what’s best for the team, then that’s where I’ll be. I’ve never been a guy who said, ‘I want to play on this side or that side.’ We’re both capable of playing either side. And we’re both capable of playing anybody we face.
“It’s always us. It’s never them.”
Allen learned and experienced a great deal in 2013. And he addressed where he’s been and where he’s potentially headed.
ON THE ISLAND
Playing cornerback at the NFL level, whether it’s boundary corner, field corner, shut-down corner or sub-package corner, is another world from The Citadel. It’s all about technique, all the time.
“Where people get into trouble is you beat yourself a lot. Whether it’s your eyes, technique; a lot of times when people fall short on plays, it’s something that can be corrected, something that can be fixed. As long as we stay consistent and focused, I think we’ll be all right.”
DEALING WITH ADVERSITY
During the 2013 season, Allen started eight games and played in 14 around an ankle injury that sidelined him in September and relegated him to reserve status for a stretch thereafter.
He accepted whatever was thrown at him as part of “life’s changes,” and because of “my history at The Citadel, things like that.”
“That’s part of the game, part of life. Being able to keep your mind-set on what you need to get done and then if you attack those things, you’ll be all right. But you’re going to go through ups and downs, and it’s expected.”
SUCCESS AND FAILURE
The personal highlight for Allen was a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown on Dec. 22 at Green Bay.
Lowlights included Allen sitting at his locker on multiple occasions after games and accepting responsibility for poor tackling, most notably against Minnesota in London and vs. Miami at Heinz Field.
“I’m still trying to get better, trying to be as consistent as possible, trying to correct little things. There’s always room for improvement, but I think I’m making good strides in the right direction.
“I feel like I’ll never be satisfied as far as where I want to be. As long as I can keep tackling, keep playing close, keep running, I’ll be all right.”
HOLD THE CELEBRATION
Allen characterized his second interception of 2013 and the fourth of his career as “great, historic,” given its Lambeau Field backdrop.
“Two of the most historic teams in our game and my first pick-six at that field, it’s pretty special. It was a great experience.”
But there was no “Lambeau Leap” or any other punctuation after Allen had found the end zone.
“It happened so fast I didn’t think about doing anything. Plus, I’m not much of a celebration guy.”
BACK TO THE GRIND
Allen outlined his offseason agenda just before the regular season ended.
“Evaluate myself and begin the process of attacking what I need to improve. Talk to Coach (Mike) Tomlin and Coach Lake (defensive backs coach Carnell) and see what I can improve in the offseason and go from there.
“There’s so much room for me to grow.”
I want Cortez to have what Ike had...and to catch some interceptions as well, please...
Hopefully Tez has a great offseason and stays healthy for next year. He's got all the potential in the world. Even Ike thinks Tez can be better than Ike, and Ike doesn't think anyone can be better than him.
I thought the punchline was going to be, " ... so he had all his fingers chopped off".
We got our "6-PACK" - time to work on a CASE!
HERE WE GO STEELERS, HERE WE GO!
Now that's funny.
Originally Posted by SanAntonioSteelerFan
Steelers Sunday / The secondary: A long, hard fall
February 15, 2014
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks created more turnovers than any other team in the NFL last season, and they were particularly adept at intercepting passes. In 19 games, 16 regular-season and three playoff contests, they had 32.
Once among the best in the league at creating turnovers, the Steelers are now the antithesis of the Seahawks. Nothing drives that fact home more than this sobering statistic: In the past three seasons combined, the Steelers have 31 interceptions.
If this were the only problem in the secondary, the Steelers might have been able to overcome it. But there were other issues at hand. In addition to lacking playmakers who could take the ball away, the Steelers compounded their defensive issues by surrendering an inordinate number of big plays last season.
This drove defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau batty because the basic principle behind his defensive scheme is to limit big plays. Under LeBeau, the Steelers have dared opponents to drive the length of the field against them. When teams scored against the Steelers, they had to earn it.
Teams didn't have to work nearly as hard to score against the Steelers in 2013 and one of the more surprising things was who was exposing them for the big plays. It was one thing for New England's Tom Brady to dissect the Steelers to the tune of 55 points and 610 total yards, but some decidedly less-talented quarterbacks found ways to beat the Steelers, too. They included Jake Locker, Matt Cassell, Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Tannehill.
Some, like Pryor and Tannehill, did more damage running than passing, but there was a time when the Steelers devoured subpar quarterbacks no matter what their skill set. That no longer is the case.
Even in victory there were struggles. Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden of the Browns managed to combine for 312 passing yards in a game in Cleveland in November. Matthew Stafford of the Lions threw for 362 yards.
But the inability to take the ball away is the most glaring issue. The Steelers had 10 interceptions last season. They had 10 in 2012 and 11 in 2011, when they made the playoffs after going 12-4 during the regular season. The 2011 Steelers were masters at not allowing big plays, however.
The 2013 Steelers did neither, and it's one of the biggest reasons they failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Some of the inefficient play in the defensive backfield can be traced to last offseason when the Steelers failed to sign free agent cornerback Keenan Lewis, who left the team that drafted him for his hometown New Orleans Saints. Lewis was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL last season. According to Pro Football Focus, he was targeted 68 times by opposing quarterbacks and allowed just 466 yards and three touchdowns. He intercepted four passes.
By contrast, the player the Steelers elected to keep over Lewis had one of the worst seasons of his distinguished career. Veteran Ike Taylor was targeted 113 times and gave up 71 receptions and 1,043 yards, the most by any cornerback in the NFL. Taylor allowed six touchdowns while in coverage and did not have an interception.
To demonstrate how much Taylor was targeted by opposing teams and how much success they had against him, consider this: he gave up 71 more yards than any other cornerback in the NFL and only two cornerbacks in the NFL were targeted more.
The Steelers have to make a decision on Taylor, who turns 34 in May. According to overthecap.com, he is an $11.9 million cap hit if he is on the roster next season, but the Steelers can save $7 million -- his 2014 salary -- by releasing him.
If the Steelers made a mistake in their decision to keep Taylor over Lewis, give them credit for re-signing William Gay, who might have had the best season of his seven-year career. Gay was a part-time starter and excelled covering slot receivers. He also was good in run support.
Cortez Allen had knee and ankle injuries that retarded his progress early in the season, and he lost his starting job for a time. But the Steelers are high on Allen.
One reason they are hopeful is his nose for the ball. He had two interceptions, including one for a touchdown against Green Bay. Still, Steelers cornerbacks combined for three interceptions, or one fewer than Lewis had with the Saints.
At safety, Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu remained formidable run-stoppers, but they were not as strong as previous years in coverage. Clark, 34, is a free agent and is not expected to re-sign. Polamalu, who will turn 33 in April, had a strong bounce-back season after an injury-riddled 2012 campaign.
Some of the big-play ability that defined Polamalu early in his career returned in spurts. He had two interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and he forced five fumbles.
Polamalu had some problems in pass coverage, especially against bigger receivers. And, because of other issues on defense, he was utilized more like a linebacker than a safety for much of last season in packages when the Steelers employed six defensive backs.
Polamalu, who is a $10.8 cap hit next season, is playing out the final year of his contract. The Steelers could save $8 million by releasing him, but that seems unlikely in the wake of team president Art Rooney II's comments after the season when he said it's his goal to have Polamalu retire as a Steeler.
The Steelers drafted Shamarko Thomas in the fourth round last season and figure to address the position again in the draft or free agency. Thomas served as Polamalu's backup last season. He played in some nickel and dime packages early in the season, but his playing time decreased later in the season because veteran Will Allen was playing so well.
Allen was added to the roster in early October after Dallas released him. Like Clark, he is a free agent in March.
Clark's backup was second-year undrafted free agent Robert Golden, who was primarily a special teams player.
Golden only played 51 defensive snaps, with one coming after September.