This is the 13th in a series that looks at 17 plays that shaped the Pittsburgh Steelers' season -- one from every game.

For this series we will go in chronological order.

No. 1: Running back Le'Veon Bell's 38-yard touchdown scamper in a 30-27 win over the Cleveland Browns.

No, 2: Wide receiver Justin Brown's lost fumble after a 6-yard reception in a 26-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 3: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones' sack of quarterback Cam Newton for an 8-yard loss in a 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers.

No. 4: Wide receiver Antonio Brown's drop of a sure touchdown pass in a 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 5: Cornerback Brice McCain's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 17-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No. 6: Cornerback Cortez Allen getting beat for a 51-yard touchdown catch by Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

No. 7: Running back Le'Veon Bell's 43-yard reception in a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans.

No. 8: Cornerback William Gay's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 51-34 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

No. 9: Wide receiver Markus Wheaton's 47-yard touchdown catch in a 43-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 10: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's rare and untimely interception in a 20-13 loss to the New York Jets.

No. 11: Bell's 5-yard touchdown run in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans.

No. 12: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills' 69-yard touchdown catch in a 35-32 win over the Steelers.

No. 13: Outside linebacker Arthur Moats' fumble recovery in a 42-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

No. 14: Gay's 52-yard interception return for a touchdown in the Steelers' 27-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

No. 15: Defensive end Stephon Tuitt's hustle produces the only turnover of the game.

The setting: The Chiefs, trailing 10-6 in the third quarter at Heinz Field, were on the move when Tuitt showed why the Steelers were ecstatic when he slipped to them in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft.

The play: Quarterback Alex Smith completed a screen pass to running back Jamaal Charles but Tuitt showed great pursuit and belted Charles from behind after a 3-yard gain. Tuitt's hit jarred the ball loose and inside linebacker Vince Williams recovered it at the Steelers' 25-yard line.

What it meant for the bigger picture: The Steelers turned the turnover into a touchdown when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger marched them 75 yards and capped the 10-play drive with a 3-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown. The Steelers went on to beat the Chiefs, 20-12, putting them one win away from capturing their first AFC North title since 2010. Tuitt's big play highlighted the vast improvement the Notre Dame product made from the beginning of the season – and showed why he is a cornerstone of the Steelers' defense moving forward.
ESPN.com's AFC North reporters voted on five awards for the division (Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player), and one will be handed out each day throughout this week. Consider this our version of the NFL Honors show.

For Wednesday, it's the 2014 AFC North Defensive Player of the Year ...

There was no overwhelmingly dominant defensive player in the AFC North in 2014. That’s the result of this voting, as eight players were nominated, the most for any award. No player received more than two first-place votes.

Dumervil
The winner: Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil, who led the division and ranked third in the league with 17 sacks. Dumervil paired with Terrell Suggs (who finished tied for third) to form the best pass-rushing tandem in the division, and perhaps the league. The two combined with 29 sacks.

Dumervil was a smart pickup by Ozzie Newsome after he left Denver following a snafu in faxing him a restructured contract offer in 2013. He had one game this past season with 3.5 sacks, and he set Baltimore’s single-season sack record.

Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden finished second, with Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley and Suggs tying for third.

Haden went to his second consecutive Pro Bowl after a season when he had three interceptions and 20 passes broken up. Haden ranked first in the division and second in the league in passes defensed.

Suggs had his usual excellent season with 61 tackles and 12 sacks. Mosley’s 133 tackles ranked seventh in the league.

Dumervil had two first-place votes, with Pittsburgh linebacker Lawrence Timmons, Suggs and Mosley receiving one vote each.

AFC North Defensive Player of the Year: Elvis Dumervil, 10 points; Joe Haden, 5; C.J. Mosley, 4; Terrell Suggs, 4; Lawrence Timmons, 3; Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland, 2; Vincent Rey, Cincinnati, 1; George Iloka, Cincinnati, 1.

Panel of voters: Scott Brown, Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon.
The emergence of so many rookies wide receivers in 2014 -- six had more than 750 receiving yards -- should not have come as a surprise in one sense.

Analysts had said leading up to the draft that it was unusually flush with talented wideouts, and the depth at the position allowed the Steelers to wait until the fourth round to take Clemson’s Martavis Bryant.

Bryant caught 26 passes for 549 yards and eight touchdowns despite only dressing for the last 10 games. The 6-foot-4, 212-pounder has a rare blend of size and speed and is on his way to becoming one of the top deep threats in the NFL.

Any other year, ESPN NFL analyst Matt Williamson said of Bryant, and “I guarantee you he’s a second-round pick. He happened to fall and (the Steelers) jumped on him. I think that will be even more of a case this year with running backs.”

That is excellent news for the Steelers, who are in the market for running back depth -- and should have learned from the LeGarrette Blount debacle not to bring in a veteran who has expectations of playing significant snaps.

Le'Veon Bell is clearly an every-down back as he showed during a breakout season that merits MVP consideration, and only turns 23 next month.

But Bell’s absence in the Steelers’ AFC wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens due to a hyperextended knee also magnified the need for the team to upgrade behind him.

This may be the perfect year to do it even with the Steelers expected to focus on defense in the draft.

A running back hasn’t been selected in the first round of the draft since 2012 and ESPN Minnesota Vikings reporter Ben Goessling recently wrote about how devalued the position has become in the NFL.

What that means for the Steelers is that quality running backs will get pushed down the draft through no fault of their own and should be available in the middle of the draft, if not later.

Consider that St. Louis Rams running back Tre Mason, who led all rookies with 765 yards rushing, was a third-round pick. The second-best rookie rusher, New York Giants running back Andre Williams (721 yards), was selected in the fourth round.

The Steelers would be crazy to consider drafting a running back before the fourth round. But in a draft class that ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. agrees is deep at running back they should be able to find one in those middle rounds who can help them.
This is the 14th in a series that looks at 17 plays that shaped the Pittsburgh Steelers' season -- one from every game.

For this series we will go in chronological order.

No. 1: Running back Le'Veon Bell’s 38-yard touchdown scamper in a 30-27 win over the Cleveland Browns.

No. 2: Wide receiver Justin Brown's lost fumble after a 6-yard reception in a 26-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 3: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones' sack of quarterback Cam Newton for an 8-yard loss in a 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers.

No. 4: Wide receiver Antonio Brown's drop of a sure touchdown pass in a 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 5: Cornerback Brice McCain's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 17-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No. 6: Cornerback Cortez Allen getting beat for a 51-yard touchdown catch by Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

No. 7: Bell’s 43-yard reception in a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans.

No. 8: Cornerback William Gay's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 51-34 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

No. 9: Wide receiver Markus Wheaton's 47-yard touchdown catch in a 43-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 10: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's rare and untimely interception in a 20-13 loss to the New York Jets.

No. 11: Bell's 5-yard touchdown run in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans.

No. 12: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills' 69-yard touchdown catch in a 35-32 win over the Steelers.

No. 13: Outside linebacker Arthur Moats capitalizes on botched exchange in Cincinnati.

Gay
No. 14: “Big play” Willie Gay strikes again for Steelers.

The setting: The Steelers had controlled the first quarter but led just 6-0 despite gaining 132 yards to the Falcons' 36 in the first 15 minutes in Atlanta.

The play: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan made an ill-advised decision when he took a shot down the middle of the field to Harry Douglas. The Falcons wide receiver ran a deep in but Gay jumped the route. He picked off Ryan’s pass and then made a nifty return for the first touchdown of the game. Gay weaved his way left and as he got near the Falcons' sideline, stopped and let a handful of Atlanta players overrun him. Gay then raced through an opening for a 52-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.

What it meant for the bigger picture: Gay set a Steelers single-season record with his third interception return for a touchdown. His pick-six also came just after the Steelers had twice settled for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns -- and raised the anxiety level among Terrible Towel-twirling fans who had essentially turned the Georgia Dome into a neutral site. The latest of Gay’s big plays provided a shot of confidence for a team that had squandered first-quarter scoring opportunities in earlier losses to the Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints. The Steelers went on to beat the Falcons, 27-20, to improve to 9-5 and stay on track for the AFC North title.
The trio that led the Pittsburgh Steelers to their first division title since 2010 also battled for ESPN.com AFC North Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Wide receiver Antonio Brown beat out running back Le'Veon Bell and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the award, garnering 12 points in voting by the five writers who cover AFC North teams.

Wallace
Brown
Brown, who had the second-most catches in an NFL season (129), beat out Bell and Roethlisberger for the honor. Brown led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards (1,698) and was a first-team All-Pro selection.

Bell led the AFC in rushing (1,361 yards) and also led all NFL running backs with 854 receiving yards. The first-team All-Pro selection finished with 10 points after his second NFL season. Roethlisberger, who shared the NFL passing title (4,952 yards) with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, had six points.

Players received three points for a first-place vote, two for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote.

Baltimore Ravens running back Justin Forsett and Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill each received a third-place vote.

Forsett did more than soften the Ravens’ blow from the loss of Ray Rice. Forsett, a journeyman, rushed for 1,266 yards, fifth-most in the NFL, and led all running backs with 5.4 yards per carry.

Hill paced all rookie running backs with 1,124 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

The second-round draft pick finished eighth among all NFL players in rushing yards and second among running backs with 5.1 yards per carry.
Pittsburgh Steelers veteran defensive end Brett Keisel hinted on Monday that he will to try to return from the torn triceps that ended his 2014 season at the end of November.

Keisel said on ESPN's "SVP & Russillo Show" that he has started the rehabilitation process and that “I’m still under contract (with the Steelers) so who knows?”

Art Rooney II said last week that the Steelers have not made a decision about whether to bring back Keisel or veterans such as outside linebacker James Harrison, strong safety Troy Polamalu and cornerback Ike Taylor.

Keisel signed a two-year, $3 million contract with the Steelers last August. Waiving the 13th-year veteran would only cost the Steelers $250,000 against the salary cap in 2015.

On the other hand Keisel showed in 2014 that he can still play. The 6-foot-5, 285-pounder finished fourth on the Steelers with 12 quarterback pressures despite missing the final four games. He also tipped or batted down six passes and recorded a sack and an interception.

Keisel, who turns 37 next September, would have to accept a reserve role if he returns to the Steelers with Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt set as the starting defensive ends.

But he played a situational role in 2014 and the Steelers won’t have any experienced depth at defensive end if they release Cam Thomas, who has one year left on his contract and did not show much in his first season with the Steelers.

Keisel, during rounds of ESPN interviews in Phoenix, endorsed new Steelers defensive coordinator Keith Butler so the departure of Dick LeBeau probably won’t factor into Keisel’s decision when it comes to his football future.

Not that Keisel will ever forget how much LeBeau shaped him in more ways than one.

“He means so much to me and I know he means so much to so many of my teammates that had the great pleasure of being around him on a daily basis,” Keisel said on the show. “He is a great football mind, a great football coach, one of the best all-time. But there’s so much more to Coach than that that it’s hard to explain how much he has meant to us and a lot of us why we’re the men we are off the field is because of his influence. He touched so many of our lives.”

Dick LeBeau won't coach in Arizona

January, 26, 2015
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Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau won’t be resurfacing in the desert despite meeting with the Arizona Cardinals last week.

Coach Bruce Arians told ESPN.com Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss on Monday that he could not persuade LeBeau to join his staff.

“I think just the distance with his family,” Arians said. “He expects a lot of interest. Of course, I had a lot of interest but I think the distance and he just decided what he wants to do.”

LeBeau is available after the Steelers did not renew his contract and later promoted longtime linebackers coach Keith Butler to defensive coordinator.

LeBeau lives in Cincinnati and he prefers to coach east of the Mississippi River so he doesn’t have to stray too far from home.

LeBeau, 77, made it clear that he wants to continue coaching when Mike Tomlin asked him his plans a week after the Steelers’ AFC wild-card loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

One possible landing spot for LeBeau is in Tennessee.

He and Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt coached together in Pittsburgh and are good friends. Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton coached the secondary in Pittsburgh before becoming a coordinator, first in Arizona and now in Tennessee, and is a LeBeau protégé.

Steelers' Security

January, 26, 2015
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video

Pittsburgh Steelers director of security Jack Kearney is also a full-time Allegheny County Sheriff's Deputy, prompting some to question whether there is a conflict of interest in cases concerning Steelers players.
Brett Keisel predicted the Seattle Seahawks will win Super Bowl XLIX but that has nothing to do with his admitted “dislike” for the New England Patriots.

Keisel, in fact, said on ESPN’s "SVP & Russillo" show Monday that his enmity toward the Patriots stems from respect for what they have accomplished.

Keisel
Keisel
“Six times to the Super Bowl in the Belichick era is just phenomenal,” Keisel said from Arizona, where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday. “It’s unfortunate that these things are coming up.”

Ah yes, these things.

The Patriots are under intense scrutiny after 11 of 12 balls they used in a 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game reportedly had air taken out of them. It's become an even bigger story because the Patriots were heavily disciplined by the NFL in 2007 for illegally videotaping the defensive hand signals of the Jets.

Keisel was critical of the Patriots and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last week. But he said Monday that his opinion on what the Patriots have accomplished under Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t changed because of the latest cheating allegations.

“I don’t think that this whole football scandal is relevant one bit. No one really knows, 'Well did it happen, didn't it happen?'” Keisel said. “It’s just unfortunate because there’s so many other guys, other teammates that are part of the Patriots. Or there’s so many guys that are on the Seahawks team that are part of the Super Bowl and rather than the focus being on those guys and their accomplishments getting here it’s on all of this.”
Take a listen to this week's NFL Nation TV podcast as the crew breaks down the latest in "deflategate" and the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) are joined by two other NFL Nation reporters to discuss the big game.

Kevin Seifert (NFL Nation writer) takes us behind the multi-step process that goes into the pregame checking of football inflation, and the impetus behind the league allowing quarterbacks to play with their own footballs. He also chats briefly about the Super Bowl's head referee, Bill Vinovich, and what we might be able to expect from his mixed crew.

Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) shares his thoughts on covering the Super Bowl after having been in the press box of each championship game since Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta in 1994.

Be sure to watch NFL Nation TV live on ESPN.com this Friday at 1 p.m./10 a.m. PT as we catch up with Legwold and ESPN Insider's Mike Sando, who will fill us in on the Hall of Fame selection process that will occur this weekend.

Also, be sure to give the show's podcast a listen following each taping.

Listen to this week's podcast here.
This is the 13th in a series that looks at 17 plays that shaped the Pittsburgh Steelers' season – one from every game.

For this series we will go in chronological order.

No. 1: Running back Le'Veon Bell’s 38-yard touchdown scamper in a 30-27 win over the Cleveland Browns.

No, 2: Wide receiver Justin Brown's lost fumble after a 6-yard reception in a 26-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 3: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones' sack of quarterback Cam Newton for an 8-yard loss in a 37-19 win over the Carolina Panthers.

No. 4: Wide receiver Antonio Brown's drop of a sure touchdown pass in a 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 5: Cornerback Brice McCain's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 17-9 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No. 6: Cornerback Cortez Allen getting beat for a 51-yard touchdown catch by Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

No. 7: Bell’s 43-yard reception in a 30-23 win over the Houston Texans.

No. 8: Cornerback William Gay's 33-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 51-34 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

No. 9: Wide receiver Markus Wheaton's 47-yard touchdown catch in a 43-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 10: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's rare and untimely interception in a 20-13 loss to the New York Jets.

No. 11: Bell's 5-yard touchdown run in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans.

No. 12: New Orleans Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills' 69-yard touchdown catch in a 35-32 win over the Steelers.

No. 13: Outside linebacker Arthur Moats capitalizes on botched exchange in Cincinnati.

The setting: The Steelers were trailing the Bengals, 21-10, early in the fourth quarter when Moats came up with one of the most critical takeaways of the season.

Moats
The play: Quarterback Andy Dalton had burned Pittsburgh for a 20-yard touchdown run off a read option but gave the Steelers the opening they needed when the Bengals ran the same play later in the game. Dalton faked to running back Jeremy Hill, but when he pulled it back Hill’s hip jarred it loose. Moats, starting at right outside linebacker for the injured James Harrison, alertly jumped on the ball right after Dalton and wrestled it away from him. The turnover gave the Steelers the ball at the Bengals' 24-yard line.

What it meant for the bigger picture: The Steelers needed just four plays to score the go-ahead touchdown and erupted for 22 points after Dalton’s lost fumble to beat the Bengals, 42-21. The victory -- Le'Veon Bell highlighted it by tying Walter Payton’s NFL record for most consecutive games with at least 200 yards from scrimmage with three -- put the Steelers just percentage behind the first-place Bengals in the bunched-up AFC North. The resounding way in which they beat the Bengals also provided a springboard for the Steelers, who won their final four regular-season games for the first time since 2005.
ESPN.com's AFC North reporters voted on five awards for the division (Coach of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player), and one will be handed out each day throughout the week. Consider this our version of the NFL Honors show.

For Monday, it's the 2014 AFC North Coach of the Year ...

Harbaugh
No AFC North team endured more challenges than the Baltimore Ravens, and no division team advanced further in the playoffs than them. That's a credit to the leadership of John Harbaugh, who narrowly beat out the Pittsburgh Steelers' Mike Tomlin for AFC North Coach of the Year.

Harbaugh directed the Ravens to a 10-6 record and the divisional round of the playoffs despite the Ray Rice scandal, 19 players on injured reserve and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's month-long suspension. Quarterback Joe Flacco was asked about why the Ravens can handle adversity so well and he pointed immediately to Harbaugh.

"It starts with John and his attitude that he brings to the team meeting room ... and it filters throughout the rest of us," Flacco said. "So, we are able to keep that levelheadedness and keep the same mentality no matter what's happened the previous week."

It was more than Harbaugh's guidance that helped the Ravens reach the playoffs for the sixth time in his seven seasons. It was also his aggressiveness.

In early December, Harbaugh established a a must-win mentality by going for it on fourth-and-1 in Miami. It was a gamble considering the Ravens were trailing in the third quarter and they were at their own 34-yard line. But Flacco converted it with a quarterback sneak, and the Ravens were celebrating the go-ahead touchdown seven plays later.

"It was there for us to take. That was the message that was sent to us," tight end Owen Daniels said. "They were putting it on [the offense]. Our defense is playing great, but we had to do something offensively to knock the door down."

Harbaugh is at his best when the Ravens are facing adversity, and he proved that time and time again in 2014.

As far as the balloting went, Harbaugh received three of the five first-place votes to win the award in what was a good showing for all of the AFC North coaches this season. Tomlin, who took the other two first-place votes, led the Steelers back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Marvin Lewis recorded his fourth-straight playoff season (the Cincinnati Bengals didn't make the playoffs in the 12 seasons before Lewis arrived). And, despite a rough finish, first-year coach Mike Pettine helped the Cleveland Browns to their best season since 2007.

AFC North Coach of the Year voting: John Harbaugh, 17 points; Mike Tomlin, 16; Marvin Lewis, 10; Mike Pettine, 7.

Panel of voters: Scott Brown, Jeremy Fowler, Coley Harvey, Jamison Hensley and Pat McManamon.
Join us today at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT, for a special ESPN NFL Nation TV Super Bowl Week Spreecast as episode No. 41 will review Deflategate and look ahead to what the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots can expect heading into Super Bowl XLIX.

Host Paul Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by EPSN NFL Insider Kevin Seifert and Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter).

Seifert, who has covered the world of NFL officiating with aplomb, will break down the process of inflating and inspecting footballs and how officials are involved in the process. He’ll also give us a scouting report on the officials assigned for Sunday.

Legwold, who covered the Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl, will then give us a day-by-day breakdown of the week and how teams attempt to stay focused with so many outside distractions.

Also, the crew will discuss the Pro Football Focus project that examined how many above-average players each NFL team was from contending for this year’s Super Bowl.

Viewers are encouraged to log in and ask the panelists questions as well as contribute in the chat feature.

NFL Nation TV will have a second show this week on Friday at 1 p.m. ET, 10 a.m. PT.

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers won't give up on cornerback Cortez Allen, who regressed in 2014 after signing a five-year $26 million contract right before the start of the season.

"I think coaches are going to work hard with him this offseason to put him in the best situation he can be in to get back out there, and I think achieve what we all think is great potential," Steelers president Art Rooney II said recently. "But he's got to be able to do it on the field."

[+] EnlargeCortez Allen
AP Photo/Don WrightCortez Allen is looking to rebound next season after a down 2014 campaign.
Allen had a rough time on the field in 2014, losing his starting job and then the duties of nickel back in the middle of the season. Allen had two interceptions in the Steelers' first five games but he played sparingly after Brice McCain and Antwon Blake passed him in the cornerback pecking order.

The Steelers placed Allen on injured reserve in early December after he underwent minor knee surgery and also had a broken thumb surgically repaired. Coach Mike Tomlin admittedly "didn't see much" from Allen during a season in which the Steelers expected the fourth-year veteran to make a significant jump.

"His health was an element of it," Tomlin said.

Not that Tomlin gave Allen a pass because of his physical ailments.

"He's going to be faced with a stiff challenge in terms of responding to the adversity that he faced this year," the eighth-year coach said. "I look forward to watching him do that and helping him in any way that I can professionally."

The Steelers have a vested interest in getting Allen turned around and not just because they made a significant investment in the 2011 fourth-round draft pick.

The Steelers aren't exactly brimming with talent at cornerback and Ike Taylor, whom the Steelers hoped Allen would supplant as their No. 1 cornerback, is unlikely to be re-signed.

Taylor, however, offers hope for the Steelers that Allen can be salvaged.

The 12th-year veteran lost his starting job in 2006, a season after Taylor had been pivotal in the Steelers' run to the Super Bowl title.

Taylor rebounded in 2007, Tomlin's first season as the Steelers' head coach, and established himself as one of the better cover cornerbacks in the NFL. With Taylor seemingly at the end of his NFL career, the timing couldn't be better for Allen to replicate what Taylor did after the roughest stretch of his career.

"Ike has been there," Tomlin said. "The ups and downs associated with playing corner in the NFL [with] promotions, demotions, playing in rhythm, trying to find that rhythm is all part of it. How you respond to the adversity that the game of football or professional football presents you often times defines you and defines your career."

Allen has shown flashes and the 6-foot-1, 196-pounder has the athleticism and ball skills to develop into a No. 1 cornerback. But Allen is farther away from becoming one than he was at this time last year.

And the Steelers are almost certain to take a cornerback early in the 2015 NFL draft.

"I view myself as a guy that's willing to work for whatever he gets," Allen said. [The coaches] just want me to continue to get healthy and come back next year ready."

Allen said the lost season he experienced in 2014 did not sap his confidence. Polishing his technique, he said, will be the difference in making plays that eluded him in what the Steelers hoped would be a breakout season.

"One, I've got to stay healthy," Allen said. "Two, just finish my plays. A lot of those plays I didn't make were very close plays."

Said Rooney, "We're still optimistic that he can do it and has the potential to do it. Now it's really up to him to make that happen."
This is the 12th in a series that looks at 17 plays that shaped the Pittsburgh Steelers' season -- one from every game.

For this series we will go in chronological order.

No. 1: Le'Veon Bell's 38-yard touchdown run in a 30-27 win against the Cleveland Browns.

No, 2: Wide receiver Justin Brown's lost fumble after a 6-yard reception in a 26-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 3: Outside linebacker Jarvis Jones' sack of quarterback Cam Newton for an 8-yard loss in a 37-19 win against the Carolina Panthers.

No. 4: Wide receiver Antonio Brown's drop of a sure touchdown pass in a 27-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No. 5: Cornerback Brice McCain's 21-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 17-9 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No. 6: Cornerback Cortez Allen getting beat for a 51-yard touchdown catch by Cleveland Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

No. 7: Bell's 43-yard reception in a 30-23 win against the Houston Texans.

No. 8: Cornerback William Gay returns an interception 33 yards for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts.

No. 9: Wide receiver Markus Wheaton's 47-yard touchdown catch in a 43-23 win against the Baltimore Ravens.

No. 10: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's rare and untimely interception in a 20-13 loss to the New York Jets.

No. 11: Bell stretches for a critical touchdown against the Tennessee Titans on the way to a career game.

Taylor
No. 12: New Orleans Saints wide receiver catches Steelers cornerback standing Stills.

The setting: The Steelers had cut the Saints’ lead to 21-13 late in the third quarter on a short Bell touchdown run and were poised to get the ball back when New Orleans struck with the biggest play of the game.

The play: The Saints, facing a third-and-10 from the Steelers’ 31-yard line, lined up Kenny Stills in the slot and he ran an out and up. Quarterback Drew Brees received plenty of time from his offensive line and made one of his easier touchdown throws after cornerback Ike Taylor bit on the out cut. Stills had at least 10 yards on Taylor when he hauled in Brees' pass, and the second-year man had a clear path to the end zone. His touchdown re-established a double-digit lead for the Saints, and the Steelers never seriously threatened the rest of the way in a 35-32 loss that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated.

What it meant for the bigger picture: Taylor played in his first game since breaking his forearm in late September, and the Stills’ touchdown raised red flags about the veteran cornerback’s ability to overcome a serious injury and still keep up with younger wide receivers. The Steelers, meanwhile, gave up their third long touchdown pass in as many games, and the loss to the Saints dropped them to 7-5. The Steelers had taken a playoff mentality into the Saints game. After that loss they knew they had no margin for error if they wanted to win the AFC North.

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