Ed Bouchette of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweeted earlier today that Cortez Allen’s injured ankle kept him sidelined during the Steelers’ most recent practice. Later in the day, Scott Brown of ESPN.com chimed in with the following news about what could happen if Allen is has to sit for Monday night’s game against the Bengals:
With Allen out of the lineup, the Steelers could be at a tremendous disadvantage when they are forced into sub-package situations and also when the Bengals trot two tight ends out on the field. While three, four, and five wide receiver sets scare me, I am most worried about what will happen when Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham are in the game at the same time.
Allen was supposed to be Pittsburgh’s answer to athletic tight ends within the division. If he is out, then the team will likely have to use Gay or Thomas if Lawrence Timmons, Kion Wilson, and Troy Polamalu cannot contend with the tight ends in the passing game.
When I think about Gay covering athletic tight ends, my mind immediately races back to the 2010 game against New England when the cornerback was eaten alive by then-rookie Rob Gronkowski. Then again, Gay will be needed to cover Mohamed Sanu since I highly doubt that the coaching staff wants to put Curtis Brown in the game in sub-packages if they would rather use Thomas instead.
While I have faith that the rookie Thomas can help in that area and match up with Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham from a coverage standpoint, I really hope that the former Syracuse star will be ready to test his vertical leaping ability. Eifert (6’6″) and Gresham (6’5″) will tower above the 5’9″ safety, and I am sure that “Ginger Spice” Dalton will look to throw some “jump-balls” if the match-ups present themselves in the red zone.
With the secondary already thin, the Steelers cannot afford to lose Allen for such an important divisional game. The Bengals already have A.J. Green at their disposal, so the last thing that Pittsburgh’s secondary needs are more potential mismatches when Cincinnati’s offense takes to the air. If Allen is sidelined though, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake must have their secondary prepared to pick up the slack.
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