By Christina Rivers
Player Name: Cortez Allen, CB #28
College: The Citadel
Hometown: Ocala, Florida
Experience: 2 years
As a young man in Florida, Cortez Allen, the son of Louis Green and Lois Allen may not have dreamed he would be named the Steelers Digest Player of the Week on a December day in 2012, but he was. A prep star in track at North Marion High School (Citra, Fla.), Allen only joined the football team his senior year. During the 2005 season, he helped the Colts record a 10-4 record and capture the regional championships by recording 45 tackles with five passes defended, an interception and a fumble recovery. After earning Class AAA All-State, All-City and All-District honors, Allen was invited to and participated in the North-South All-Star Classic.
Since being drafted in the fourth round (128th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft, Allen has steadily improved his play at cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, Allen raised his play to a whole new level. Allen had two interceptions in the game and forced a third turnover by stripping Bengals receiver A.J. Green of the ball after a catch in Steelers territory. In one game, Allen matched the number of interceptions the defensive backfield had been able to snag all season. Through Week 16, Allen has also been involved in 47 tackles (37 solo) and has defended ten passes. His play has been heralded by insiders and many are saying he has proven why he should be a first-teamer in 2013.
Allen attended college at The Citadel, a smaller school that is known as much for its military discipline as it is for how dedicated its student-athletes are. Allen red-shirted in 2006 and saw his most time in 2007 on special teams. He played in every game of the 2008 season for the Bulldogs with six starts at the cornerback position. Allen recorded 39 tackles; ninth on the team. His performance in 2009 led to Allen being selected as an All-American third-team choice by The NFL Draft Report. Ranked second, Allen posted 57 tackles and became only the sixth player in The Citadel history to record over 100 return yards off of interceptions in a single game. The Bulldogs defensive squad that season averaged nearly 38 yards per interception return. In 2010, Allen was rated the second-best draft eligible cornerback in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision ranks by The NFL Draft Report and was the first NCAA Football Championship defender to intercept the first play from scrimmage and return it for a touchdown during a season opener. Following the mission of the school to make "principled leaders", Allen endured 'hell week' at The Citadel only to see a little bit of heaven as he led the Bulldogs with six pass deflections, eight stops inside the red zone, and added two interceptions; one for a touchdown.
Allen took over for injured veteran Ike Taylor at cornerback, and unlike many players, didn't budge when other teams tried to take advantage of him. Before starting at corner, Allen was recording special teams stops. During the December 2nd game at Baltimore, Allen led all defensive backs in tackles with six and set a career-high four pass breakups that held Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to just 177 net passing yards. His first official career start at cornerback was on December 9 against San Diego. In that game he had a career-high seven tackles. After a streak of 28 consecutive regular-season games in which he played, Allen was injured and inactive at Dallas. There were questions at to whether Allen would be 100 percent for play against the Bengals, but he answered the question in a big way. Those two interceptions against Andy Dalton were the first two of Allen's young NFL career. Allen called the loss to the Bengals "extremely disappointing" immediately after the game, but he remains optimistic. "We have work to do...We will continue to grow."
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Christina Rivers is freelance journalist and photographer with a life-long love of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Credentialed with the organization, Christina provides a unique perspective gained through her knowledge and understanding of Steelers history, the Rooney family and relationships with past and present players. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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