On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the signing of exclusive rights free agent center J.C. Hassenauer, who has inked a one-year contract and will compete to replace perennial Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey, who made the decision to retire last month.
A day later, the Steelers moved forward with the signing of safety-turned-linebacker Marcus Allen, the second of three exclusive rights free agents on the roster, (the third being linebacker Robert Spillane, who is likely to be re-upped within the next week).
Marcus Allen is a Converted Safety
Marcus Allen, 24, was drafted by the Steelers in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft (No. 148 overall) out of Penn State and played safety during his first two years with the team, during which time he appeared in a total of three games. In 2020 he moved to linebacker and played in 14 games (two starts), recording 24 tackles (16 solo), with two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits. He also contributed six tackles on special teams.
To be sure, he has wholeheartedly embraced the position switch.
“I like it a lot. I am open to it,” said Allen while in the midst of the 2020 season. “I am willing to get better at it every day. I feel as though I have come a long way. I am still getting better, learning more within the position.
“It’s basically incorporating more of what I already knew,” he added. “When you come from safety you know the ins and outs of the defense. It’s a different position and just the same concepts. I already knew what to do when I was at safety.”
That helps explain why Allen made a noticeable impact in his first NFL start, which came at Buffalo on December 13, 2020. He finished that game with a career-high eight tackles (five solo) and one tackle for loss.
Allen’s Status as an Exclusive Rights Free Agent
Yet despite being drafted in 2018, Allen—who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds—is no longer playing under the four-year contract he signed as a rookie. That’s because he was released after failing to make the 53-man roster out of training camp in 2019, and subsequently returned to the team via the practice squad later that same season.
As for Allen’s chances of making the club and getting playing time in 2021, a lot will depend on the health and contractual status of his fellow inside linebackers. He figures to remain limited to a reserve role and special teams, assuming:
– Devin Bush has made a successful recovery from his ACL injury, which he suffered during the October 2020 home game vs. Cleveland
– Robert Spillane is re-signed, as expected, and
– Vince Williams is not a salary cap casualty.
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