By Mark Kaboly, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, May 1, 2011
A fourth-round pick with good size but little experience from a nontraditional football school? It worked out well for the Steelers before.
Eight years ago, they drafted cornerback Ike Taylor in the fourth round (124th overall) out of Louisiana-Lafayette, even though he had played the position only two years.
The Steelers again opted to select a cornerback in fourth round, choosing with the Cortez Allen — a 6-foot-1, 197-pound corner out of out of The Citadel — with the 128th pick.
"This is a height, weight, speed prospect along the lines of Ike Taylor physically," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.
Taylor is an unrestricted free agent, and with the uncertainty surrounding the NFL's labor situation and free agency put on hold, the Steelers are uncertain whether they will be able to lock up Taylor with a long-term deal — especially because his asking price might approach $10 million a season.
So the Steelers addressed their need at cornerback in the draft when they selected Texas' Curtis Brown in the third round and Allen in the fourth.
While Brown may be more of a polished prospect, Allen has raw talent. He played just one year of high school football, started only 28 games for a Division I-AA program and had just five interceptions.
"The Citadel is not a football factory," defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said. " A lot of the work that he gets is very limited in terms of football, but we noticed that with limited experience, he looked pretty natural at cornerback."
Allen split time with his mom in San Diego and dad in Ocala, Fla., preventing him from playing youth football. He didn't decide to go out for the high school team until his junior year.
Despite a eye-opening senior year at North Marion (Fla.), where he allowed just three completions to receivers all season and was named to the Florida all-state team, Allen decided to attend The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C., where football wasn't always his first priority.
So when Allen visited the Steelers last month, Lake wanted to know just how much time he was afforded to work on his football skills.
"He said, 'I don't get a lot of time because I have to do The Citadel stuff,'" Lake said. "So I said this guy is really playing well, and he's not working on his craft that much because of his limited time. If he can spend a lot of time working on his craft, I see a lot of upside for him."
Allen, who doesn't have any military obligations after graduating in December, thinks The Citadel helped him get drafted by the Steelers.
"I don't think it hindered me at all," Allen said. "If anything, it made me a better person to be able to manage all that. I felt that if I worked hard enough, I would get noticed playing football."
The Steelers are thin at corner, making Allen's development paramount. William Gay is also an unrestricted free agent, leaving Bryant McFadden and unproven Keenan Lewis as the other top corners on the roster.