This is the 12th in a series that takes a post-training camp look at every position. Next up is cornerback.
Projected starters: Taylor and Allen. Taylor is hoping to bounce back after a tough 2013 season. The 12th-year veteran is no longer a shutdown cornerback ,but he is motivated to prove that he can still play at a high level after last season. The Steelers have been patiently waiting for Allen to put everything together. The 6-foot-1, 196-pounder has the potential to be a No. 1 cornerback. The time is now for Allen to establish himself as one, especially since the fourth-year veteran is in the final year of his contract.
Projected number on 53-man roster: Five. The Steelers could go with six if they don’t want to risk losing Richardson, who appears to be headed to the practice squad. The top five seem set here with Taylor, Allen, Gay, McCain and Blake.
Rookie watch: Richardson, a fifth-round draft pick, got off to a good start at St. Vincent College but seemed to fall off a little as camp progressed. A knee injury sidelined Richardson for the second preseason game and will keep him from playing Thursday night in Philadelphia. The Arizona product has to play well in the Steelers’ final preseason game to make the team. And that is assuming he is healthy enough to try and make a strong closing statement on Aug. 28 against the visiting Carolina Panthers.
What we learned in camp: The three weeks at St. Vincent College confirmed that cornerback is the biggest question mark on the Steelers heading into this season. Allen had a quiet camp, and is it realistic to expect Taylor, at the age of 34, to improve significantly following a trying season in 2013? Gay is fine as the No. 3 cornerback and McCain has solidified his spot as the No. 4 cornerback. Blake hasn’t made enough of a jump to think he will be much more than a core special teams player while providing depth at cornerback.
He said it: “I’ve seen real good progress. It’s still going to take some time and mistakes are going to be made but we’ve got to really get to it. There’s a difference between running the 40[-yard dash] and actually playing fast and we’ve got to play fast every snap.” -- Taylor