If there is one thing Marcus Allen learned his rookie season, it's that that he doesn't want to experience something like it ever again.
"It definitely was tough," said Allen. "Something that I've never experienced before. Throughout my whole football career I've never had to sit the bench and wait for my opportunity. It was new to me. It definitely humbled me and matured me more. It made me want to grind even harder because I know the ropes and I know what it takes to become that starter and become who I want to be in the league."
Allen, the team's fifth round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, was on the active roster all season. But when game day rolled around, the young safety was anything but active. In 14 of 16 games Allen was on the inactive list, playing only against the Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals.
"It was definitely a challenge mentally because you fight for something for so long and then to not be able to play all year," said Allen. "When it was game time, it hurt. But it just makes you stronger. That's what Coach (Mike) Tomlin talks about all the time, going through things that make you stronger. Football teaches you a lot."
Without the opportunity to see playing time on game day, Allen took advantage of every minute he was on the practice field. That is where he found his football happy place.
"I treated practice like a game. Practice for me is fun," said Allen. "Coach Tomlin always told me to stay ready, even if you're not up stay ready so you don't have to get ready. That's what I tried to do all season. I made sure I took notes in every meeting just so I could stay ready when my number is called. And every time my number was called, I made sure I did my job."
Many of the veterans in the Steelers' secondary also helped make sure Allen was ready, helping him with on-field tips and also encouraging the young player to keep a positive approach. And if you saw him on a daily basis, you would see a happy-go-lucky guy who was never without a smile. But as we all know, sometimes a smile can hide a lot.
"The smile is just me. It definitely was tough," said Allen. "People don't know how you feel when you go back home and you leave the facility. This is my comfort zone…football. When I leave and I'm in my house, all I am thinking about is football and how I can get on the field. It's definitely kind of hard, but what are you going to do be mad about it or just keep working. Coach (Garrett) Giemont installed that in my mind too because I was working with him all season in the development program. He would say, when we lose what are you going to do stop working or just work harder? And every time we just work harder. So that's my motto.
"It strengthened me because of my mindset, the way I think is completely different. I know this is a business and how much work it takes for you to succeed in this business. It's a lot and I feel as though I know that now and taking that into the offseason is going to be great for me because I know what it takes."
Allen said his offseason is focused on making sure he does everything necessary to get on the field next season, not allowing anything whether it be a numbers game at his position or his inexperience, stand in his way.
"I don't know what it was, but I know whatever it was I can't let it happen again," said Allen. "You'll see."