Steel Sensations: Taking a look at the secondary

Troy Polamalu, Brian Hartline
Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu , left, intercepts a pass intended for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline (82) and returns it for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

As the Steelers rapidly approach the roster trim down moment of 4pm on Saturday, we take our final look at the team and break down the secondary.
This unit is often maligned for their shortcomings in the passing game despite having future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu and longtime veteran Ike Taylor.  There are several players vying for just a few spots and this is how I see it breaking down.
The two starting cornerbacks will be Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen. Taylor is playing in what most likely will be his final year. He’s long been the teams’ top corner and he enters this season as that guy again.  He’s clearly lost a step over the years and it may be a tall task to ask him to guard guys like AJ Green and Torrey Smith but he’s going to be given the first shot to do so.
Cortez Allen will be the second corner on the field and he’s a bit of a bi polar figure when he’s out there. At times he looks great, capable of covering anyone anywhere. Other times he looks like he couldn’t cover my four year old. He’s playing for a new contract so it’s do or die time for him.
William Gay will be the nickel back and is capable of getting the job done in that position. He’s certainly not a guy that the black and gold want starting full time as he often gets burned deep but he’ll be the next man up should either Taylor or Allen go down.
Rookie Shaquille Richardson will be the fourth cornerback. I’m hopeful he gets a good bit of playing time because he appears to be the future of this unit and any experience he can gain will only help his development.
The team also has Antwon Blake, Isaiah Green, Brice McCain, Dayonne Nunley, and B.W. Webb manning spots currently. I don’t anticipate any of them will be on the team come 4pm Saturday.
The safeties are pretty obvious. Troy Polamalu is still the starter at Strong Safety and is in great shape. Polamalu should be here for two more years and I think he’s going to play at a high level in both of those seasons. He’s one of the best to ever suit up and he’s still capable of making jaw dropping plays.
Newly signed Mike Mitchell will replace Ryan Clark at the free safety position. He’s an upgrade over Clark and will be a high impact play making ball hawk. The team will surely benefit from adding him to this roster.
Will Allen is back for another season and is a top of the line reserve, capable of starting if needed. Allen makes plays and is a great asset to have on the team.
Shamarko Thomas enters his second year and he looked very good through camp and pre season. The man they call “headache” can put on some of the best hits you’ll ever see. He’s not far away from being an every down player for this team and he’ll get more action this year and show you exactly why the Steelers  like him so much.
Robert Golden is a guy that may make the squad but he’s a fringe player. If the team elects to keep an additional offensive or defensive lineman, Golden could be the odd man out.
Ross Ventrose will not make the squad.
No matter how you break it down, this portion of the team is much improved in the safety department and very deep there too but they have some weaknesses at corner that could get exposed against the potent offenses the Steelers have to face this season. This unit will rely heavily on the linebackers making the big plays at the line and behind the line in order to help hinder the opposing passing attack.
Mike Pelaia hosts the website Steel Nation Association– Covering the Steelers and helping Children’s Hospital All Day Everyday. You can e-mail him at


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