The Steelers are heading into the 2013 season under the radar, a team some are picking to finish third in the AFC North. That doesn’t bother cornerback Cortez Allen or his teammates, who know they just have to go out and do their job and the rest will take care of itself.
“For as long as I have been here there have been people that have doubted us, people that have said we are too old,” said Allen. “It’s never been a problem for us yet. For two years in row we have been the number one defense and I don’t see that stopping with the mindset and group that we have.”
Allen knows the defense can’t rest on their laurels. A number one ranking is the goal once again this year, but not just overall and against the pass, but also against the run.
“We want to be better in the turnover category,” said Allen. “We want to continue to be better against the pass and run. We finished one against the pass last year, but we would like to be one in every category. There are always things to work on.
“That is the approach we take every day, to get better every day. That should be any defense, any individual, to work to perfection. Each day there is something to build on.”
Tags: Cortez Allen
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Cornerback Cortez Allen hates the fact that teammate Ike Taylor will not play this week, the first time he hasn’t played in a game since the 2004 season, but at the same time he knows he has to take advantage of the opportunity in front of him.
Allen will be starting in Taylor’s left cornerback spot Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field, after Taylor suffered a fractured ankle against the Ravens.
“Stepping in for Ike are big shoes to fill,” said Allen. “I have a lot of respect for him and what he brings to the field. He is my mentor as far as the game is concerned. I lean on Ike a lot as far as his wisdom. He is in his 10th year and he brings a lot to the table as far as just knowledge. I am always in his ear about things.
“But like Coach (Mike) Tomlin said the ball keeps rolling and I have to fill in that spot to help the team out.”
Allen, who competed for the starting right cornerback spot that Keenan Lewis secured at the start of the season, is making his first NFL start as he fills that spot, and is understandably pumped for it.
“It’s exciting,” said Allen. “If I wasn’t excited about this opportunity what am I am here for. This is something you look forward to doing as a football player. You want to be a starter. It’s a big test for me to show I can handle the job.”
Allen said he will handle this week the same as he has every other week this season, the big difference being there will be more on his plate playing every down.
“I take the approach you should always be prepared,” said Allen. “I was ready for this. I feel the coaching staff and teammates are confident in me to get the job done. That’s all I can go out there and do. The good thing is I am going into the week with a chance to study a broader view of the game.”
Last week Allen got thrown into the fire against the Ravens, stepping in early when Taylor went down. The Ravens tested him early and often, and he expects something similar this week.
“Being the new guy you know they are going to go at you,” said Allen. “I am prepared for it each week. You have to be ready for it. Every down that you play, you have to play as if it’s coming to you. I was ready for it and expecting it and I accept that challenge.”
He also grew from the experience. While he might not have been completely pleased with the performance, he held his own and gained plenty of confidence from those around him.
“I had a few ups and downs but that is expected in the course of the game,” said Allen. “It’s things to learn from and I will make my corrections in practice and be ready for the next game.
“I learned to be a little more technically sound and settle down a little bit. As the game wore on I felt more comfortable and felt like I progressed. Playing a full game I got a good taste of that. Going into this game I will feel more prepared.”
Tags: Cortez Allen
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A common theme in the Steelers three losses this season, whether you talk to players on offense or defense, has been closing out games.
In the team’s losses protecting a lead late has been a struggle, as has running out the clock in the fourth quarter.
This past week though, both sides came through in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers took a 24-17 lead at the start of the fourth quarter on an 11-yard touchdown run by Chris Rainey. And unlike in past weeks, the defense was able to hold off the Bengals, while the offense ran out the clock and were able to finish the game in victory formation for the first time this season.
“It felt good to go back to Steelers football,” said guard Willie Colon. “That is us, that is our identity and we have to be that. Games we lost as an offense, we didn’t close games. When you don’t do that you breathe life back into other teams.
“It’s important for us when we get down to three or four minutes left we have to close games out and we did that.”
The defense forced two three and outs on two of the Bengals three fourth quarter possessions, and allowed just one first down on another.
“We made an emphasis on finishing and being disciplined through four quarters,” said cornerback Cortez Allen on Monday, after watching game film. “I thought we put together a full complete game, defensively, offensively, minus one or two plays.”
Another thing defensive players have been harping on is focusing on not trying to do too much but just doing the task at hand. It appears this week they took their own advice.
“I think we played more team defense,” said Allen. “We played our roles. We played more disciplined than we have throughout the season and I think it showed.
“When you are playing team defense good things happen. We got away from individualized things as far as trying to make this play or that play, instead of just doing what is in your job description. I felt like we played a good game in that way and had results.”
Allen added that there was also a difference in the approach to preparation this week, a much more focused approach.
“Guys, including myself were more focused and detailed on what we had to get done,” said Allen. “We all knew how important the game was and how important they are especially when we are talking about division play. The focus and intensity of how we prepare and play was higher. It’s something we will continue to build on each day.”
On the offensive side of the ball there was also a different feel. It was a more physical game, with Colon saying both sides really “got at it,” but it was the Steelers who had the scrappier approach and the results showed.
“I think everyone bucked up,” said Colon. “We needed that win. We can’t make any more excuses. Every time we watched the film it was just us beating us. We can’t have that. We know we are a better team than that. We can’t wait on the next guy to make plays. Everybody has to individually step their game up and make things happen. We were able to do that.
“I thought our intensity was higher, our energy level was higher. I thought we left some things out there, but it was a total team win, which we needed. That was the most important thing.”
Tags: Cortez Allen, Willie Colon
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As the young, wide-eyed soon-to-be kindergartener walked up to the table, she glanced at the bright colored backpacks piled high above her head, and thought seriously about taking the pink one in front of her that would match her pink skirt.
She then looked shyly at Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward, eying up a lavender one he was getting ready to show her, and did an about face and took that one, walking away smiling from ear to ear.
A few weeks ago getting a brand new backpack and school supplies might not have been a reality for her, but on this night, she had her choice at the CASA backpack giveaway at the Schenley Park Skating Rink.
CASA, which is short for Court Appointed Special Advocates, works with children in the child welfare system who are neglected or abused. The advocates serve as a voice for the children in court and other situations to help ensure that every child has a safe, supportive and permanent home.
On this night many of the kids served by CASA were getting their school supplies, all donated by CentiMark Foundation, from Heyward and cornerback Cortez Allen.
The two players not only handed out the backpacks, but signed autographs, posed for pictures and even gave out hugs to the kids.
“It’s a lot of fun just to give back to the kids and be here,” said Heyward. “We are having fun with the kids. Anything you can do that brightens somebody’s day is special. You never know what somebody is going through and how you are going to impact their day. To give back to our community is a true pleasure.”
Being a part of the event was special for Allen, who didn’t always have new things like a backpack when it was time for him to go back to school as a kid.
“Growing up I didn’t always have things,” said Allen. “I didn’t always have a new backpack. Sometimes you had to recycle. Having the opportunity to be doing this is touching. To be able to give back to them, if it’s a little bit of happiness you give, it’s a pleasure.”
The fun didn’t stop with getting a backpack, as the kids were able to play miniature golf, have their caricature drawn, or enjoy the balloon art which ranged from butterfly wings to football helmets.
But the highlight definitely seemed to be meeting Heyward and Allen.
“We want our children to start off on the best foot possible,” said Melissa Protzek, executive director of CASA. “We feel the partnership between CentiMark, CASA and the Steelers is a way to give to the community and the kids and families we serve and tell them good luck for a big thing, the first day of school.
Tags: Cameron Heyward, CASA, Cortez Allen
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The battle for the starting cornerback spot opposite Ike Taylor continues to roll on in training camp, with Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown all still in the mix. And for Allen, the competition is making him a better player.
“I don’t get into the battle thing of it,” said Allen. “If I can get better each day I go out, then we are getting better as a team. That is the approach I take. The competition, as long as I am working on everything, it will take care of itself.”
Allen said he has made major progress since last year at this time, partially because he is now healthy having battled a hamstring injury in camp last year and also from gaining experience on the field last season.
He also is benefitting from working with Taylor this offseason.
“I talked to him about football in general,” said Allen. “He is a guy I look up to as far as my development. I attribute a lot of my growth to him.”
Tags: Cortez Allen, Ike Taylor
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Sunday, January 8
There are plenty of Terrible Towels in the crowd as the Steelers get ready for kickoff.
Steelers starting center Maurkice Pouncey is among those inactive for today’s game against the Broncos. Doug Legursky will start at center.
Also inactive are cornerback Cortez Allen, safety Ryan Clark, linebacker Mortty Ivy, tackle Jamon Meredith, running back Mewelde Moore and defensive end Al Woods.
Ryan Mundy will start at free safety for Clark.
As the Steelers prepare to take on the Broncos, running backs coach Kirby Wilson is in the thoughts of all of Steelers Nation.
“Kirby is a fighter, he is fighting,” said Coach Mike Tomlin. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family as we prepare to play this football game.”
Tags: Al Woods, Casey Hampton, Cortez Allen, Doug Legursky, Jamon Meredith, Kirby Wilson, Maurkice Pouncey, Mewelde Moore, Mike Tomlin, Mortty Ivy, Ryan Clark, Ryan Mundy, Steelers Inactives
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