Return of Allen, Johnson gives boost to Steelers
PITTSBURGH – The final result wasn’t what they would have hoped for, but the Steelers came out of their third preseason game feeling a lot better than they did after their first two outings.
Pittsburgh dropped a 26-20 overtime decision to Kansas City at Heinz Field Saturday night, but much of the damage by the Chiefs came after halftime, long after the Steelers starters had exited the game.
The game also saw the return of two players who could be key to Pittsburgh’s chances in 2013, cornerback Cortez Allen and tight end David Johnson.
Allen, who was seeing his first action of the preseason after undergoing a minor knee surgery earlier this month, started and played with the other defensive starters into the first series of the third quarter.
Johnson, meanwhile, was playing in a game for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in Pittsburgh’s preseason opener of 2012.
Both players are being counted on to step into larger roles this year. Allen is replacing Keenan Lewis, who signed with New Orleans as a free agent, and will play opposite Ike Taylor. Johnson could help the Steelers bridge the gap between the start of the regular season and the return of Heath Miller, who is also recovering from a torn knee ligament.
“I felt good. It was my first test, coming back and being in a live situation,” said Allen. “I thought I started off a little behind where I wanted to be, as far as my tackling. As the game got going and I got more comfortable, I was able to get into a rhythm.”
Allen was tested early and often by the Chiefs and finished with a team-best six tackles, adding one pass defensed.
He expected to be tested, just as he expects opponents to go after him as a first-year starter once the regular season begins.
“They’re not going to throw much at Ike,” said Allen, the Steelers’ nickel back last season. “I expect everyone to throw at the new guy and test me out. It’s a challenge I welcome. The more they do, the more opportunities I have to make plays and help our defense.”
Johnson welcomed the opportunity just to be in a game.
He didn’t see as much playing time as Allen, getting on the field for only a dozen or so plays. But after a year of rehab and a setback in mini-camp that required another minor surgery in July, seeing game action was a big first step.
“I think it’s very important,” said Johnson, who was activated off the PUP list on Wednesday and had just a few practices before playing.
“We are low on tight ends right now, and Heath is still working on his comeback, so it just felt good to get in there and start to get things going.”
With Miller out, the Steelers unveiled another new tight end Saturday, using offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum a number of times.
“It was a little different,” said Beachum, who is the team’s top backup at both tackle and guard. “Every position has its pros and cons. For me, it’s just a difference in how I see the formation and the defender has a little more space out there at tight end.”
The Steelers made it out of the game without any major injuries, though they did get a scare with rookie linebacker Jarvis Jones, their first-round draft pick. Jones suffered a rib/chest injury after landing on the football when he was tackled following a fourth-quarter interception that was nullified by a penalty. He was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital for observation overnight, but was released Sunday afternoon after tests came back negative for any significant damage.
Jones is expected to be ready to play in the Sept. 8 opener at Heinz Field against Tennessee.
Odds and end zones
The Steelers’ defense had five sacks, including two by rookie linebacker Alan Baxter. … Kansas City running backs gained only 33 yards on 18 carries, but quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Alex Smith had six scrambles for 83 yards. ... The Steelers have until Tuesday to trim their roster to 75 players.