By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t get a cornerback in the first round like many expected, but they certainly have tried to add depth to that area with consecutive picks after getting Cortez Allen from The Citadel in the fourth round during the NFL Draft Saturday.
The Steelers capped Friday’s session by taking corner Curtis Brown from Texas in the third round.
“I was hoping that would be the case,” Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake said when asked if he was told when he was hired that help would be on the way in the draft. “We didn’t specifically talk about it, but anytime we can strengthen the secondary year, it’s going to help us tremendously.
“So, this is a good start for us this year. … As you guys know, the Steelers have done very well at selecting talent for years. It looks like we’re taking the best talent that we can when it comes up at the round that we choose. So, this is just another example of that. We’re getting talent and fulfilling needs.”
The 6-foot-1, 197-pound Allen has 4.5 40-yard dash speed and excellent physical skills, but doesn’t have a lot of experience. However, he has shown the ability to jam receivers at the line or stay with them in coverage.
“Cortez is a nice-sized corner … who plays physical,” Lake said. “He can play both the bump and off coverage well. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but he’s productive and he has a lot of upside. For us to take him at this point in the draft, I think we got a real deal here.
“(And) even though he’s not experienced, he looks pretty natural at corner. … In our defensive scheme, we need players who play both off coverage and press well. His vision also is very good, and you need that to make plays and drive on the ball. And with his size, he should be able to compete with a big receiver.”
Allen missed his sophomore season after a knee injury the year before, but played in 34 of 36 games during the latter three seasons in his career. He tallied five interceptions in his final two seasons and returned two picks for touchdowns. Allen dis a big, hard-hitting cornerback who plays aggressively, and coupled with speed, should be an interesting player for the Steelers.
Allen played one year of high-school football, and his action was limited early in college. However, Allen raised his draft stock significantly at the NFL Combine with a first-place finish among cornerbacks in the broad jump (10-9), second-place performance in the 60-yard shuttle (10.87 seconds), fifth in the 20-yard shuttle (4.01) and 11th in the three-cone drill (6.76). He also did 18 reps in the bench press.
“I’m a hard-worker, and I come from a hard-working school,” Allen said. “(It’s) one with leadership and success. I feel like I have the ability to stand out and contribute just as well as the other guys. … I’m also highly competitive and very coachable, (so) I’m willing to compete and get the job done.”
Allen said that he was recruited by Sam Houston State, Cincinnati, Bethune-Cookman, Southern Illinois University, Colgate and some smaller schools, along with The Citadel, when he was in high school.