Last year Cortez Allen got his feet wet as a starter, taking over the job at left cornerback at the opening of the 2013 season.
But this year he is hoping to fully submerge himself at the position, and become the dependable force on the outside that the coaches are looking for him to be.
"I feel a lot more comfortable, being on the outside in the starting position," said Allen during the team's minicamp. "I feel like I got my feet under me a lot more. It's still a work in progress. There is still a lot of room for improvement."
Allen was expected to be a full-time starter last year, but a combination of an ankle, knee and Achilles injury limited him to starting only eight games, while Will Gay started the other eight.
"The main thing for me is staying healthy," said Allen. "The better I do that, the better I get. I think I progressively got better throughout the season. The past few years I have finished strong. I would just like to start where I finish as far as being able to be consistent on the field without any hiccups."
Allen also weighed in on several other topics:
On the key to starting strong and finishing strong:
"Just knowing your body. Talking with our staff here on what causes things and just doing the research on the problem areas we face as professional athletes, particularly cornerbacks. I did that during the offseason and was able to strengthen those areas I felt like I was weak in and attack those and so far I have been good."
On what some of the areas of concern were:
"Just ankle strength, VMO (quadriceps) strengthening, working on my hips. It's the things that support me the most as far as what I do as a defensive back."
Steelers veterans and rookies participate in day 3 of the 2014 Minicamp at the Steelers' practice facility.
On what made him focus on those things:**
"As a young guy you are just out there and you want to play. You are not thinking about all of the little stuff that maintains you. But being around Ike (Taylor) and some of the older guys you start to learn a lot about professionalism and what it really means to be a professional athlete. Watching them and how they take care of their bodies, how they prepare for a game, how they prepare for practices or just in the offseason. You learn those things. It's a blessing for me to play with guys who have so much experience in the league and on this team and who still can do it. Every day I am trying to learn from him."
On what he learns from watching Ike Taylor train:
"He is one of the most well conditioned guys I have ever met, and hard working. You can see that by the limited number of injuries he has had in his career. Just being around him, even coming into the league, was something I wanted to do because I want to model that performance as far as durability and work ethic."
On working with Coach Tom Shaw the last three seasons, and how the workouts changed this offseason:
"It was a little more intense starting off this year. Usually you don't get to that extreme stuff until later in the summer. It started earlier this year. And the way we have been doing it has been different, but has been good. It's helped me."
On what areas he wants to improve on:
"My tackling could have improved last year, minor technique stuff with that. Also focus on overall my eyes. That is something Coach (Carnell) Lake always talks about; make sure your eyes are where they are supposed to be. That and just staying healthy. Those three things are keys. If I maintain my health I can be the best I want to be. I need to take care of those things and I think I will be all right."
On what he needs to do from now until the start of training camp:
"I need to stay on the up rise, head back down to Tom Shaw and get back to work. I want to make sure I come into training camp in the best physical and mental shape I can be in."