As cornerback Ike Taylor's role changed during his 11th season with the Steelers, third-year cornerback Cortez Allen contemplated how his responsibilities might someday likewise be altered.
The Steelers got away from specifically assigning Taylor to the opposition's best receiver as the 2013 season progressed, and as that was happening Allen looked forward to someday assuming that role if called upon.
"Of course," he confirmed. "I've always liked to challenge myself. I've always wanted that challenge just to see how I match up. And it's always fun to go against talent like that.
"Ike's done it before me. Hopefully, one day I'll be in that position to be the level of player that he is. It's a day-by-day process. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can from him and the guys around me.
"Wherever I am in the defense, wherever they see fit, what's best for the team, then that's where I'll be. I've never been a guy who said, 'I want to play on this side or that side.' We're both capable of playing either side. And we're both capable of playing anybody we face.
"It's always us. It's never them."
Allen learned and experienced a great deal in 2013. And he addressed where he's been and where he's potentially headed.
ON THE ISLAND
Playing cornerback at the NFL level, whether it's boundary corner, field corner, shut-down corner or sub-package corner, is another world from The Citadel. It's all about technique, all the time.
"Where people get into trouble is you beat yourself a lot. Whether it's your eyes, technique; a lot of times when people fall short on plays, it's something that can be corrected, something that can be fixed. As long as we stay consistent and focused, I think we'll be all right."
DEALING WITH ADVERSITY
During the 2013 season, Allen started eight games and played in 14 around an ankle injury that sidelined him in September and relegated him to reserve status for a stretch thereafter.
He accepted whatever was thrown at him as part of "life's changes," and because of "my history at The Citadel, things like that."
"That's part of the game, part of life. Being able to keep your mind-set on what you need to get done and then if you attack those things, you'll be all right. But you're going to go through ups and downs, and it's expected."
SUCCESS AND FAILURE
The personal highlight for Allen was a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown on Dec. 22 at Green Bay.
Lowlights included Allen sitting at his locker on multiple occasions after games and accepting responsibility for poor tackling, most notably against Minnesota in London and vs. Miami at Heinz Field.
"I'm still trying to get better, trying to be as consistent as possible, trying to correct little things. There's always room for improvement, but I think I'm making good strides in the right direction.
"I feel like I'll never be satisfied as far as where I want to be. As long as I can keep tackling, keep playing close, keep running, I'll be all right."
HOLD THE CELEBRATION
Allen characterized his second interception of 2013 and the fourth of his career as "great, historic," given its Lambeau Field backdrop.
"Two of the most historic teams in our game and my first pick-six at that field, it's pretty special. It was a great experience."
But there was no "Lambeau Leap" or any other punctuation after Allen had found the end zone.
"It happened so fast I didn't think about doing anything. Plus, I'm not much of a celebration guy."
BACK TO THE GRIND
Allen outlined his offseason agenda just before the regular season ended.
"Evaluate myself and begin the process of attacking what I need to improve. Talk to Coach (Mike) Tomlin and Coach Lake (defensive backs coach Carnell) and see what I can improve in the offseason and go from there.
"There's so much room for me to grow."