Allen could fill void at nickel back for Steelers

| Wednesday, May 23, 2012, 8:08 p.m.

With William Gay signing with Arizona in the offseason, the Steelers are searching for a nickel back and apparently will give second-year man Cortez Allen the first opportunity to win the job.

Allen said following the second day of organized team activities Wednesday that he's excited about the opportunity of possibly replacing Gay.

“It is a great position to play,” Allen said. “It's fun. It's different. It helps me as far as the grand scheme of the concept of the defense.”

Allen, the Steelers' fourth-round pick last year out of Citadel, never played nickel in college but knew the concepts of the position in case of an emergency.

“I was always the matchup corner, so I never got a chance to play in college,” Allen said.

The nickel position is important in defensive coordinator's Dick LeBeau's defense. It requires the defensive back to thoroughly know the ins and outs of the defense.

“You are not just worried about what you are doing,” Allen said. “You have to know when you are blitzing, what the linebacker is doing, and things like that. It is a lot different, but I am excited about it.”

Nothing personal

Veteran offensive lineman Trai Essex has been the first-team left tackle during the first two days of OTAs. However, that may not be the case when rookie Mike Adams shows up for minicamp in a couple weeks.

And if Adams is immediately inserted into the top spot at left tackle, Essex would understand.

“I am not going to take it personal if he jumps ahead of me on the depth chart when he gets here,” Essex said. “They are going to give him an opportunity to come in and see what he can do. Just because he hasn't been here, they want to see what they invested a second-round pick in. As a veteran, I understand that.”

Essex played one game at left tackle last year in Houston. The time before that was the wild-card game in 2007 against Jacksonville.

The Steelers told Essex that they want him to concentrate on left tackle and battle Adams and Jonathan Scott for the starting spot.

“He is a rookie and he will get some slack, but not much, because there aren't any redshirts in the NFL,” Essex said. “Guys are expected to come in and contribute right away.”

One-day absence

Ike Taylor missed Tuesday's practice because he said he “had to take care of some personal business” but returned yesterday. Taylor said that he might not attend all 10 OTAs scheduled for the next three weeks.

Keisel back soon

Brett Keisel was absent from practice for the second straight day, but he is expected to return next week. Also not taking part yesterday were Jason Worilds (undisclosed) and Ramon Foster (hamstring) with rookies David DeCastro, Alameda Ta'amu and Adams not permitted to attend OTAs until school is finished.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.He can be reached at

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