STEELERS – TUESDAY
PITTSBURGH — Considering how their careers have gone and how last season ended, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones should be champing at the bit to face the New England Patriots in the opener Thursday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
“I’m just excited about playing and excited about going against the defending Super Bowl champs,” Allen said. “So, it’s a big test for us and a big opportunity. (And) if you don’t embrace it, you’re in the wrong sport. You want to go against the best, and you want to be in these types of situations. It’s fun to battle against top competition like this.”
There has been some talk this week that Allen has been supplanted in the starting lineup by Antwon Blake. Allen deferred to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and the defensive coaching staff when asked his opinion on the matter. But he added that he was in good health and ready to go.
“Like I’ve said, I’m here to play, and I’m ready to play,” Allen said. “And whatever happens, happens. (So), I feel good, and I’m excited to get this first game going.”
Jones certainly is expected to start at right outside linebacker with James Harrison as his backup, while Arthur Moats is on the left side with rookie No. 1 pick Bud Dupree in a reserve role there.
“This is my third year, and I’m happy about how things are going,” Jones said. “I had a good offseason, and my training went well. I had a good camp, and I’m just continuing to work hard and attempting to get better every day. That’s what I’m focused on right now going into this opener.”
While the Steelers defense as a whole, the starters as well as the backups, will be needed to thwart quarterback Tom Brady and the usually juggernaut Patriots offense, the performances of Allen and Jones will be as critical as any to the club’s success for several reasons.
Allen is the team’s biggest corner at 6-foot-1, 196 pounds and potentially its most physical, but it’s been a while since he played up to his potential. Allen started seven games last season before his poor play necessitated a change, and he played in the opening 11 contests before being put on injured reserve.
Allen has had flashes of brilliance since the Steelers selected him in the fourth round from The Citadel during the 2011 NFL Draft with interceptions, forced turnovers and other big plays. But those have been as spotty as his health. So, this is a chance for Allen to erase a lot of doubt.
“As a secondary, this is the kind of matchup that you want, and it’s the kind of matchup that you play football for, as far as these big-time games against guys like these,” Allen said. “So, we’re all excited on defense and especially in the secondary about this opportunity and challenge. And I’m very excited.”
Jones has played in just 21 games with 11 starts during his opening two NFL seasons after he was the Steelers No. 1 pick in 2013. Jones also has been unable to stay on the field due to injuries that have hampered his development, but he believes all the negativity is in his past along with his injured right wrist.
“I’m moving forward, and I’m ready to go,” Jones said. “I’m going to wear my soft cast, just like I’ve been doing since OTAs, to protect my wrist. That way, I can stick it out there and feel comfortable with it. I want to make sure that I don’t re-injure it, but it feels good right now. And everything is going well.”
Post-Practice Buzz: Stephon Tuitt got through Tuesday’s final practice and fully expected to start at right defensive end. … The Steelers have until tomorrow to extend the contract of left offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum, but Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"