Another in a position-by-position series examining the Steelers' roster in advance of the start of free agency.
(Free Agent Scorecard at the position: None)
On Sept. 29 vs. the Vikings in London, Allen missed tackles on Greg Jennings twice during a 70-yard catch-and-run that set an ugly tone for the defense that day. On Dec. 22 in Green Bay, it was Allen's pick-six that changed the course of the game decisively in the Steelers' favor. The team expected much more of the latter in what was Allen's third NFL season, but he didn't make the expected leap even to full-time starter. Allen passes the eye test and seems to have a lot of what it takes to play the position well, but the Steelers are going to need much more from him in 2014.
A waiver wire pickup following the original cuts to 53, Blake was added to help special teams and he delivered. In 13 games Blake made 11 special teams tackles to rank second on the team behind Golden. There are roster spots for guys who make tackles on special teams, and careers can be fashioned via that particular skill. Ask Fred McAfee.
Picked in the third round of the same draft that brought Cortez Allen to the team in the fourth, Brown was a solid gunner in punt coverage before he injured his knee and was placed on IR in late November. Unable to this point to take advantage of the chances he has gotten on defense, Brown will be entering his fourth NFL season while rehabilitating a surgically-repaired knee. That's not a great situation.
A valuable player for his versatility and dependability, Gay is underrated and underappreciated but not by the Steelers. He is precisely the kind of player a team needs to contend, and the Steelers are a good fit for him. It's a perfect arrangement, and there's no reason to believe it won't continue through 2014.
There was something about him that the Steelers liked, because he was kept around in 2013 when he bounced between the practice squad and the inactive list along the way to three appearances on special teams. He will have to fight for a roster spot in 2014.
He had an interception for the Steelers during the preseason and spent some time on their practice squad. Smith was signed to a futures contract this month.
Based on the way he was deployed during the final weeks of 2013, Taylor no longer is the team's shut-down option at the position. But that doesn't mean he has no value. This is going to be a tough decision for the Steelers, because Taylor will be 34 in May and guys that age typically don't flourish at his position, but he is a professional in every sense of the word while also being a good teammate. Is his cap number too high? That's a question that will have to be answered.