Part 1: Intelligence
One of the main reasons most corners don’t contribute right away in Dick Lebeau’s system is because of the complexity of multiple assignments and what they are asked to do. One of the reasons Cortez has seen the field as often as he has the last two seasons is because of his decent understanding of the defense the Steelers run. When I watched Cortez Allen play, he just looked confident in what he was doing. It showed several times in his rookie season, such as this play against the Patriots below.
At the top of the screen, Gronkowski looks to run a deep-out route while Cortez lines up to play man-coverage
Gronkowski sprints forward and even though Allen isn’t backpedaling anymore, he doesn’t completely turn his hips to run with Gronkowski just in case he decides to go underneath or across the middle.
At this point, Allen decides to turn his hips and run with Gronkowski. In the right corner, Polamalu waits to give Allen safety help depending apon what Gronkowski does.
To make sure Gronkowski doesn’t break to the right, Cortez Allen stays to his outside, forcing Gronkowski to the sideline. Allen knew Polamalu was their waiting, so it’s now Polamalu’s job to slide over and blanket Gronkowski.
At this point, Allen and Polamalu have Gronkowski blanketed so well that Tom Brady has to throw it to far out-of-bounds for Gronkowski to catch.
Some younger players aren’t knowledgeable of the defense enough to be able to use fellow teamates in coverage, much less be able to force a player over to the sideline. It also showed Allen’s maturity since he could have easily have panicked when Gronkowski just started to bolt down the field. Allen stayed calm cool, and collected as he followed the game plan. Having a corner with this intelligence of the defense, as well as his maturity shown, the Steelers front office can have a lot of faith in Cortez Allen for years to come.