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Old 05-23-2012, 08:38 PM   #1
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Default Steelers notebook: Cortez Allen could fill void at nickel back

Steelers notebook: Allen could fill void at nickel back

By Mark Kaboly - Tribune-Review
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

With William Gay signing with Arizona in the offseason, the Steelers are searching for a nickel back and apparently will give second-year man Cortez Allen the first opportunity to win the job.

Allen said following the second day of organized team activities Wednesday that he’s excited about the opportunity of possibly replacing Gay.

“It is a great position to play,” Allen said. “It’s fun. It’s different. It helps me as far as the grand scheme of the concept of the defense.”

Allen, the Steelers’ fourth-round pick last year out of Citadel, never played nickel in college but knew the concepts of the position in case of an emergency.

“I was always the matchup corner, so I never got a chance to play in college,” Allen said.

The nickel position is important in defensive coordinator’s Dick LeBeau’s defense. It requires the defensive back to thoroughly know the ins and outs of the defense.

“You are not just worried about what you are doing,” Allen said. “You have to know when you are blitzing, what the linebacker is doing, and things like that. It is a lot different, but I am excited about it.”

NOTHING PERSONAL

Veteran offensive lineman Trai Essex has been the first-team left tackle during the first two days of OTAs. However, that may not be the case when rookie Mike Adams shows up for minicamp in a couple weeks.

And if Adams is immediately inserted into the top spot at left tackle, Essex would understand.

“I am not going to take it personal if he jumps ahead of me on the depth chart when he gets here,” Essex said. “They are going to give him an opportunity to come in and see what he can do. Just because he hasn’t been here, they want to see what they invested a second-round pick in. As a veteran, I understand that.”

Essex played one game at left tackle last year in Houston. The time before that was the wild-card game in 2007 against Jacksonville.

The Steelers told Essex that they want him to concentrate on left tackle and battle Adams and Jonathan Scott for the starting spot.

“He is a rookie and he will get some slack, but not much, because there aren’t any redshirts in the NFL,” Essex said. “Guys are expected to come in and contribute right away.”

ONE-DAY ABSENCE

Ike Taylor missed Tuesday’s practice because he said he “had to take care of some personal business” but returned yesterday. Taylor said that he might not attend all 10 OTAs scheduled for the next three weeks.

KEISEL BACK SOON

Brett Keisel was absent from practice for the second straight day, but he is expected to return next week. Also not taking part yesterday were Jason Worilds (undisclosed) and Ramon Foster (hamstring) with rookies David DeCastro, Alameda Ta’amu and Adams not permitted to attend OTAs until school is finished.

http://triblive.com/sports/steelers/...-otas-personal
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Old 05-24-2012, 09:10 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers notebook: Cortez Allen could fill void at nickel back

From the limited stuff I've seen of Cortez Allen I hope they don't just label him as competing for the nickel spot and not give him a chance to prove he can be a starter and #2.

Trai Essex working at left tackle could be the earliest sign that they want Jonathan Scott and his 2.2 million off the team this year.
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Old 05-24-2012, 10:15 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers notebook: Cortez Allen could fill void at nickel back

CB Cortez Allen Looks to Lock Down Nickel Role in Steelers' Secondary

by Neal Coolong on May 24, 2012



Steelers CB Cortez Allen appears to be the man to beat for the nickel back position this season, writes Tribune-Review's Mark Kaboly.

That seems the easiest of what promises to be a training camp full of positional battles. If Allen showed anything his rookie year, it's the ability to handle slot coverage duty, and could very well grow to be better in that area than his predecessor, William Gay.

Allen, a former fourth-round draft pick from The Citadel, looks to be the Steelers third cornerback behind Ike Taylor and Keenan Lewis, which is like saying he's the Steelers' 12th starter on defense. Last season, Gay was a starter, and played matchup corner in the base defense, but moved inside to cover the slot in nickel situations. Lewis, last year's nickel corner, played on the outside.

Allen showed flashes of outstanding all-around ability, in particular, as part of a great team defensive effort against offensive powerhouse New England in a 25-18 Week 8 victory. With a team deep with young cornerbacks, the youngest of them, Allen, looks to lock down one of the league's toughest positions.

It's difficult in the sense that covering the slot requires a player to know what every other player is doing. His zone coverage responsibilities are dictates by shifts, motion and audibles, as opposed to the outside corners, who often are just handling the ground in very specific areas. Because the slot corner, especially in today's NFL, will handle tight ends and even running backs along with receivers, he must be equally adept at turning and running as well as coming up to deliver a hit on the receiver.

The Steelers have been preparing for the offensive arms race the NFL has become for the last few years. With the additions of Allen, Lewis and CB Curtis Brown, going along with a contract extension given last year to Taylor, they clearly recognize the adage, "you can never have too many outstanding pass defenders."

If it's Allen's to win, the Steelers are liable to continue the outstanding pass defensive legacy being established in Pittsburgh.

http://www.behindthesteelcurtain.com...lers-secondary
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Old 05-25-2012, 10:25 AM   #4
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Default Re: Steelers notebook: Cortez Allen could fill void at nickel back

where is Curtis Brown?? I think he has a good fight with Allen for the nickel back. I really hope those 2 guys and Lewis step up to be a good young core of the secondary going forward.

I am also intrigued to see what the free agent Robert Golden from Arizona does. Think he may have ball skills to be kind of a Mike Logan type guy that can play S or in the dime.
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Old 05-25-2012, 02:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: Steelers notebook: Cortez Allen could fill void at nickel back

Keenan Lewis & Cortez Allen Open Up Steelers First OTA As Starters

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 by Dave Bryan


The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up their first OTA session of the 2012 season on Thursday, and while nothing earth shattering came to light, we now know what the initial pecking order will be in the Steelers secondary as we inch ever closer to the start of training camp.

Gone from the roster now are veterans William Gay and Bryant McFadden. McFadden was the week one starting left cornerback last year against the Baltimore Ravens and was quickly hooked in favor Gay. When the Steelers would go to their defensive sub-packages Gay kicked inside to play nickel and Lewis played outside. Lewis amassed just under 400 regular season snaps on defense last year and had his ups and downs. What he did show was improvement as well as comfortability. Keep in mind that Lewis had a new defensive backs coach in Carnell Lake and no off-season practices to take advantage of of what I like to call “The Lake Effect”.

When the smoke had cleared last season Lewis allowed just over a 60% completion rate when thrown at and defensed 5 of the 49 passes thrown his way. He also sealed the win against the Kansas City Chiefs in week 12 with an interception late in the game. This off-season will be crucial one for Lewis, who was re-signed as a restricted free agent this off-season, and that means plenty of time with Lake. Lewis credited Lake with his improvement late last year and claimed that the former Steeler was probably the best coach that he has ever had.

One thing that Lewis is obviously not lacking now is confidence. Thursday he was quoted by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying that he will make the Pro Bowl this year. He also added, “Watch out, this is going to be a big year right here.”

Those are some very lofty goals for a player that was headed in the wrong direction after being benched in the second quarter of the third preseason game against the Denver Broncos in 2010 after poor play that included him picking up two personal foul penalties. Lewis got himself even further in the dog house with head coach Mike Tomlin after he punched a sign that was encased in glass on the way to the locker-room following the loss. With broken glass laying on the ground, Tomlin made sure to let Lewis know right where he stood with him as told the other players headed to the locker-room, “That's what you call young and dumb right there. Watch your step. No. (23) is playing bad and doing stupid stuff as well.”

The Tomlin dog house led to Lewis only getting just over 40 snaps worth of playing time in the 2010 season with the majority of them coming in the blow-out wins against the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns. Lake should be credited with getting Lewis back on course and the starting cornerback spot opposite Ike Taylor is his to lose heading into training camp. Speaking of Taylor, he was quoted on Wednesday as saying, "I am expecting a whole lot out of Keenan Lewis." It goes without saying that I think we all are.

Allen, a raw 4th round draft pick out of the Citadel, was looking like he might spend his rookie season on the injured reserve list after battling hamstring problems for most of training camp and the preseason. He finally was able to suit up for the final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers and he flashed with two tackles and three defensed passes, one of which was deflected for an interception. He suited up as a special teams player, as one would expect, to start the season and he started to get some real playing time in the dime and big nickel packages in the week 7 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Allen really showed his physical nature in the week 8 game against the New England Patriots lined up mostly in slot. He did give up 4 receptions in that game for 44 yards, but you could see the light bulb clearly come on at that point despite his rawness. While he only saw 60 defensive snaps in total last season, it got him acclimated to the defensive concepts of Dick LeBeau and he should progress even more this summer, his first full one under the watchful eye of Lake.

While Allen certainly seems to have the leg up for the starting nickle spot this year, he hasn't won the job just yet in shorts. He figures to battle Curtis Brown, who didn't sniff the field last season on defense as a rookie. Brown has shown on special teams the type of physical player that he is, but I figure Allen will hold him off. Should the aforementioned Lewis take any steps backwards this year, Allen figures to be the next man up to replace him on the outside.

Outside of the veteran Taylor, the Steelers cornerback depth has just over a combined 500 snaps between them all with Lewis having the biggest chunk of them. While that might be a concern for some teams, those teams don't have Lake as their secondary coach.

http://network.yardbarker.com/nfl/ar...rters/10869641
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