With Clark on move, Steelers look for new FS

The first name on the list to replace Ryan Clark brings a yawn to SCI.com publisher Jim Wexell. He believes the Steelers should make a bold move for one free safety in particular. [Edit: Turns out, they've agreed to terms with Will Allen.]

With Ryan Clark on the verge of signing a contract with the Miami Dolphins, the Steelers have – according to Inside Pittsburgh Sports – turned their attention to a safety Mike Tomlin used to coach, Will Allen.

Allen was named a Pro Bowl alternate following the 2008 season, but as a special teams player, not as a safety. He started only two games last season and hasn't had an interception since the final regular-season game of 2005, Tomlin's last season in Tampa.

Allen was an All-America safety at Ohio State as a senior, his only season as a starter in college, and was drafted by Tampa Bay in the fourth round in 2004. He started eight games in 2005 and then 16 games in 2006 before finding his niche as special-teams captain in 2008.


Since Pittsburgh fans could use a real shot in the arm as they await the next move by the Milledgeville Police Department, Tomlin should think about bringing in one of his more dynamic former players. His old fraternity brother and college teammate is available, and before leading his team to the last Super Bowl, Darren Sharper received advice from Tomlin about some of the other teams in the NFL playoffs.

"We're still close friends," Sharper told reporters at the Super Bowl.

Of course, Sharper and the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. Sharper tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions last season, giving this smart, rangy and classy William & Mary product 63 career picks to lead all active players. Sharper also broke Ed Reed's NFL record for interception return yardage last season with 376, and his 24 pass deflections led all NFL safeties.

So, why Will Allen and not Darren Sharper?

* Age. Allen will soon turn 28; Sharper will turn 35 in November.

* Cost. Allen signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay before last season, started two of eight games, and broke his thumb; Sharper signed a one-year deal with New Orleans, led the league in interceptions, and can put a diamond-studded ring on his thumb if he wishes. He's negotiating with the Saints after expecting (and failing) to be franchised for $6.5 million.

The Steelers don't overreact to circumstances, even those as seemingly dire as the straits into which their franchise quarterback could put them. Still, signing Sharper would be a bold move, one that would do more than simply quicken the pulse of a depressed and/or sickened fan base.

The Steelers could benefit greatly from Sharper, who'd provide: A.) a skilled ballhawk to balance Troy Polamalu's freelancing, b.) a mentor to the rookie safety who'll inevitably be drafted with a high pick, and c.) a close friend for Tomlin, who in turn could get his buddy started in the coaching and/or personnel business in the coming years.

Would the Steelers get much of a "friendship" discount? Probably not. But it might be the right time for them to come out of their business "comfort zone," as Tomlin might say, because the PR journey in the weeks ahead could get a little rocky.

Steel City Insider Top Stories