By DALE GRDNIC
PITTSBURGH - Will Allen's 10-year NFL career has taken some twists. Now he finally appears settled in for a second stint with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Allen has flourished since returning to the Steelers in October after a short stay with the Dallas Cowboys. He has given Pittsburgh (5-8) depth in the secondary after rookie Shamarko Thomas was slowed with an ankle injury.
Allen helped the Steelers shut down Calvin Johnson in the second half of a 37-27 victory over the Detroit Lions last month and has freed safety Troy Polamalu to experiment closer to the line of scrimmage in certain defensive packages.
"He probably won the Detroit game, at least from a defensive standpoint," Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said. "He picked up that fumble and ran about 60 yards in the Cleveland game. (And) he's done a great job for Coach (Danny) Smith on special teams."
Allen played with the Steelers from 2010-12 and spoke extensively about wanting to remain in Pittsburgh, but the Dallas Cowboys offered him a chance to start.
Allen played in five games and started twice for the Cowboys. He had three pass breakups and an interception in an early game, but Allen fell victim to the club's early struggles and he was released after some roster juggling. Allen was unemployed for just a couple days before signing with the Steelers on Oct. 10. He has one pass breakup, an interception and 27-yard return, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
"Before he left, he was a starting safety for us in a high percentage of the games," LeBeau said. "I've always had a good opinion of his football ability, and I think he's delivered for us."
It's the kind of praise that Allen doesn't take for granted.
"I really didn't know what would happen when I signed with the Steelers, but I was prepared for anything," Allen said. "You know, one day, they said: 'You're in.' Just like last year. 'Will, you're starting this week.' But every week, generally, is different. And we have to be able to capitalize on every opportunity we get, so that's what I try to do.
That's been a hallmark of Allen's career to date, working hard, biding his time and then taking advantage of it when he got a chance to play.
"Yeah, always being ready and always being a steady guy and always being consistent," Allen said. "I think you could kind of label me like that. But this year, I think I've added a little more splash to my game, making a few more big plays. But, I guess, consistency has been the key for me."
Notes: DE Brett Keisel (foot) is out for Sunday's game against Cincinnati (9-4); NT Steve McLendon (ankle) is questionable after practicing on a limited basis Friday. ... S Troy Polamalu (shoulder) and WR Emmanuel Sanders (foot) were back at practice Friday and listed as probable, along with OT Kelvin Beachum (knee), WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), OG David DeCastro (foot), OT Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and DE Ziggy Hood (ankle).