If Will Allen had his way, he would be spending this week in team meetings, on the practice field and watching film through the night, getting ready for a playoff game this weekend or next.
But unfortunately things didn’t go as planned this season, and instead of practicing he is preparing to head off into an offseason of uncertainty for the free agent safety.
“I still feel like I have to get ready for this week,” said Allen. “I am kind of at a loss for words. I think we missed out on a lot of opportunities this year. We had some very strong points but some very low points as well. We have to evaluate and get better this offseason. We need to press hard and come together as a team, so we can face those adverse situations better, and those critical moments in games where we didn’t execute well.”
Allen was called upon heavily this season not just to play in situational defenses, but to start seven games when Troy Polamalu was injured and saw extended playing time as Polamalu was slowly worked back into the lineup.
“I was able to help the team the best way I could,” said Allen. “That’s what I am here for, to help the team win and help the team the best way I can. I am thankful for the opportunity. There are still many ways I can get better and this team can get better. We just have to get better in the critical moments of a game.”
The defense finished ranked No. 1 overall in the NFL, first against the pass and second against the rush. But they weren’t satisfied. The defense was 12th in the AFC with 20 takeaways, an even mix of 10 interceptions and fumble recoveries, and 25th overall in the NFL. It’s an area Allen knows has to pick up next year.
“The lack of turnovers on defense this year, we didn’t make enough,” said Allen. “We didn’t make enough at all. We started getting them later this season. That helped our offense be more opportunistic. Next year, I think we need to focus on that from day one. To have the number-one defense and number-one pass defense two consecutive years is tremendous. I just think we need to get our turnover ratio up.”
Allen is one of 18 players who will become a free agent in March and knows there could be opportunities for him to potentially be a full-time starter elsewhere, but also knows what he has in Pittsburgh.
“The Steelers organization is great,” said Allen. “I really have enjoyed my time here. I’ve enjoyed the team. It’s a lot of fun. I love to compete here. I love the fans. It’s a hard place to leave. Even if they let you go it’s a hard place to leave. When that time comes, when March comes, I will sit back and think about what decision to make.”
Allen said he doesn’t have to talk to other players who have left via free agency, including linebacker Larry Foote who left and came back, to know how special it is to play for the Steelers.
“It’s very hard to leave you once you’ve been here,” said Allen. “I really don’t know what will happen. I want to talk like I will be here, because I love it here. I love playing here and playing for Coach Tomlin.
“I know what it is like to be away from here. I played in Tampa for six years. There were some good years, and there were some horrible years there. I know what it’s like to play for a great organization here in Pittsburgh. To leave would be difficult.”