Q&A: Will Allen

Former Bucs safety Will Allen joined the Steelers this offseason and talked to SCI's Jim Wexell about the transition during a spring interview.

Will Allen, safety, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: It would appear your connection with Mike Tomlin led to you signing with the Steelers. Is that what happened?

A: I think the connection with Coach Tomlin was a factor, but I think I also played pretty well in Tampa and had a pretty good resume. To be here and to be reunited with him and play for this tremendous organization, I'm definitely excited and am coming to work every day trying to get better and trying to help the team get better.

Q: What's your best reminisce of Mike in Tampa?

A: Mike – Coach Tomlin – is very detail oriented. He's driven and he motivates everybody around him. As a position coach, he not only motivated the secondary but he motivated the entire defense – the defensive line, linebackers. He just had an influence on everybody around him. You can tell here it's the same way. He influences the coaches, he influences everybody around him and everybody believes in him. I'm happy to be with him. I'm happy to be here.

Q: You weren't with him during Tampa Bay's Super Bowl year, but even a few years after that Tampa Bay's DBs had high interception totals. Was that the talent or the coaching?

A: It was the talent, but he's great with the details so it trickles down. Everybody's on the details. Everybody's on their Ps and Qs, so you pay attention and where plays are available you go make them. He did a great, great job of explaining to us how to make plays, where the opportunities are at, and showing the weaknesses of offenses. It was awesome, the study he put in, the amount of work he put in to give us opportunities. So, not only did he teach us great technique but he went farther by exposing the offense and showing us plays we might make that we might not have seen just by watching film. He's a great coach, a tremendous motivator, a great person. Like I said, I'm just happy to be here with this great organization. It all fits. I'm just proud to play here, man.

Q: So, knowing what you know about Mike, were you surprised by the low interception totals by Steelers DBs last season?

A: Last year was a lot of injuries. Troy Polamalu was hurt and that's the guy who gets it going. He's the playmaker. You can't really fault Coach Tomlin. It's just a matter of, like I said, the defense gelling together and understanding opportunities and playing hard and playing together. It starts up front but the back end has to save the games and make the great interceptions. It's a team effort. I think this year we're going to turn it up. Troy's going to be healthy. Ryan Clark came back and is going to be a tremendous force. We've got great corner depth and we've got great safety depth. It's going to be fun and I'm looking forward to an exciting 2010.

Q: Well, if it's true that this team has great safety depth, it's because of you. Now, you've played both positions, right?

A: Right.

Q: Which safety position do you prefer and which one are you better at?

A: I like the fact that the safety positions here are interchangeable. But over the past years Troy has been the blitzer. Troy has been more of an around-the-box type and he's been tremendous at it. So I feel like I could do both. If I'm called to do both, I'll do both. I'll just learn from him, learn from what they teach me, learn the techniques, and become flexible enough to excel at both free and strong. Whatever they need me at, I'll try to excel and do my best to pick up from where they left off.

Q: Free or strong safety at Ohio State?

A: I played both – free and strong – and I played nickel. During my first few years there I played nickel back, and when either Mike Doss or Donnie Nickey went down I went in the game. And in my senior year I played primarily strong safety and on third down I played nickel back. So all through my career I've been interchangeable.

Q: When you played nickel back, did you cover wide receivers?

A: Right. I'm definitely comfortable doing that.

Q: Mike loves that versatility. Could you take me through how the signing with the Steelers occurred? Did he make the first contact?

A: I think it was a timing issue. I'd been with Tampa the last six years. He's been here three seasons now. I've always kept in contact with him. I've always talked to him, asked him for advice, even when he was in Minnesota. I've always talked to him, and once I became a free agent for the second time we just made the connection. The timing was perfect, the opportunity was perfect. I couldn't say no to being reunited with Mike Tomlin. Going into my seventh year, I want to win championships, play for a winning team, play for a great organization that wins games all the time, and that's what they believe in every day, every day you're out here. I'm not saying Tampa wasn't like that, but this is the cream of the crop. Pittsburgh is the cream of the crop. It's been that way for decades. I needed to make that move.

Q: Speaking of the perfect opportunity, you're getting the full dose of it here this spring with Troy away, aren't you?

A: Oh, yeah. Like I said, you've got to be ready. Troy and Ryan have been hurt at times the last couple of seasons, so you've got to be ready when your opportunity comes. It's kind of been that way for me. I started a few years in the league, so I know what it takes and I understand that you never know.

Q: Weren't you the special-teams captain in Tampa?

A: Yep, the last two years. I just want to play and help this team win, sincerely. The only thing I want is to win. I don't care who's in and I don't care how it goes down. I have an unselfish attitude about it and I want to play hard, because at the end of the day if the team wins, you're a winner.

Q: It sounds as if you were a fan of this team as a kid. Is that true?

A: I grew up watching the Steelers. I grew up in Dayton, Ohio, so I grew up watching the Steelers and Bengals all the time.

Q: So you were a Bengals fan. Did you hate the Steelers?

A: I didn't hate the Steelers. I didn't hate the Steelers. I didn't hate the Steelers. But you loved to beat them. You loved the way they played. You loved the history. I mean, the Rooneys have been an organization since Day One and built greatness. You've got to continue that continuity and take it to heart. That's the way I feel about it every day I walk out here. You're playing for something that's bigger than yourself. You're playing for a legacy, and you've got to continue that legacy every day. That's what makes this city proud. That's the type of mindset the Rooneys have. So I come out here every day playing hard, playing for my family, playing for this team, playing for this organization. It's good to play for someone. You have more to play for. You have more responsibility, which makes the reward much greater.

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