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Saunders: Marcus Allen Isn’t Good Enough to Be Stupid



Steelers ILB Marcus Allen

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Marcus Allen did something colossally stupid on Sunday, when he took a 15-yard personal foul penalty DURING A TV TIMEOUT that cost the Steelers three points and changed the complexion of the end of what could have been an easy win over the Carolina Panthers.

After the game, Allen took responsibility for his actions and said that he needs to better and not allow his emotions to control his actions.

“I should’ve just started walking to my team,” Allen said. “Man, I have to keep a better head than that. My emotions got the better of me. Listen, I can’t let that happen. I let down the defense.”

Mike Tomlin said he didn’t see what happened — who would be watching for a personal foul during a TV timeout? — but acknowledged that Allen cost his team three points and said that penalties in general hurt his team on Sunday.

“We could have played smarter in some instances,” Tomlin said. “Penalties are not how we choose to live, particularly some of the 15-yard variety.”

It’s unclear what, if any, punishment Tomlin will mete out toward Allen. Many on social media called for the Steelers to release the fifth-year Penn State alum. Former Steelers inside linebacker Vince Williams said he expected Tomlin to “fry” Allen and the other Steelers players that took undisciplined penalties on Sunday.

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson and safety Miles Killebrew also had 15-yard penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct in the game. Johnson was the Steelers best player for large stretches of the game. He had 10 catches, gained several crucial first downs and did just about everything other than score his first touchdown of the season.

Some negative to go along with that level of production can be tolerated, and Tomlin has always done a good job of explaining that he treats people fairly, but not the same. Antonio Brown got a lot more leeway than some undrafted free agent would have, and that’s how Tomlin kept that situation from erupting for as long as he did.

But what do players like Allen contribute?

Allen has not taken a single snap of defense all season, even though the team’s starting inside linebackers have missed three combined games. Seventh-round rookie Mark Robinson, who looked good when he played ahead of Allen on defense on Sunday, has been active for just those three games.

Instead of giving Robinson an opportunity to grow and develop with a special teams role, the Steelers took that chance away in order to play Allen, who is going nowhere and is apparently capable of hurting the team, even while CBS is busy telling everyone else about the new January lineup on Tuesday nights.

He’s clearly not good enough at playing linebacker to ever be trusted to do that except in the most dire emergencies. He’s taking a special teams opportunity away from a more talented player. And he’s making $2.5 million.

The Steelers are spending $4.7 million on Derek Watt, $2.8 on Miles Boykin, $2.5 on Allen, $1.6 million on Gunner Olszewski and $1.5 million on Killebrew — all players that make almost all of their contributions on special teams.

They’re not even that good at special teams. They’re 31st in punt returns, 26th in net punting, 20th in kickoff and 6th in kickoff coverage. Their punt and field goal block and protect units are pretty good, but they’re only above average in special teams as a whole.

They’re not getting any return on that investment they’re spending on special teams specialists. Some of those players provide some other value. Boykin and Olszewski are useful backups. Watt is the only fullback. Killebrew plays on the goal line defense. 

Marcus Allen does nothing other than special teams, doesn’t even do that all that well, and then on the side, is a blockhead that is capable of hurting his team in one of the dumbest imaginable ways. This isn’t even the first time Allen has made waves this season. He got into it with Steelers PR staffers over the volume of his music in the locker room earlier this year.

That’s not a cuttable offense. Neither is one stupid penalty, no matter how unbelievably stupid it is.

Marcus Allen shouldn’t be cut for what he did. But he probably should have never been on the team in the first place.