The Steelers sent a strong message to their in-house cornerbacks with their selection in the 4th Round of the 2011 NFL Draft: the competition for jobs in the secondary will be on in training camp.
CB Cortez Allen from The Citadel joins 3rd Round pick Curtis Brown as new members of DB Coach Carnell Lake's defensive backfield.
Allen measures out at 6'1, 197lbs, with a 40-yard dash time of 4.45 (faster than Brown's time of 4.50). In fact, as his Ocala, Florida high school Allen was a track standout and didn't start playing football until his senior year.
Cortez decided to go to the South Carolina military school because it offered a "different experience to prepare for life." He has no military obligation now that he has graduated, but if he so chose he would enter the service as a second lieutenant. It's another solid character pick for the Steelers, another player who was a team captain in his senior year of college football.
In his four year career with The Bulldogs on the field, Allen started 28-of-39 games and participated in all special teams save kickoff return. Although he only recorded 5 interceptions in his tenure (two of which were returned for TDs), Allen's coverage ability is reflected in his other statistics:
– 63 third down stops (58 vs. the pass) and 15 fourth down stops
– Just 69-of-197 passes (35%) and 3 TDs completed against him, with just 33 of those catches producing first downs
– Rerouting of his main coverage assignment on 102 of 128 incomplete pass attempts
– 13 of 28 starts where he did not give up a single reception
Keep in mind that during that same span, The Citadel's other defensive players allowed 69 % of balls thrown their way to be completed, with 56 TDs through the air.
Coming from a small college, Cortez Allen is compared by some scouts to a poor-man's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (1st Round pick by Arizona in 2008 from Tennessee State), with a need to improve his physicality.
Lake described Allen as a "pretty quick, pretty fast guy who can play both bump and off coverage pretty well, and with a lot of upside. For us to take him at this point in the draft, I think we've got a real deal here."
If the Steelers re-sign Ike Taylor, William Gay, and Anthony Madison, the Black & Gold secondary will have eight cornerbacks competing for likely six spots in camp: Taylor, Gay, Madison, Bryant McFadden, Lewis, Butler, and now Brown and Allen. And of course the addition of two young CBs gives the team options if they are unable to ink any of their three free agent DBs on the dotted line.