It took a week of training camp before the Steelers lost their first starter to an injury, and they were more fortunate than other teams around the league.
Cortez Allen, though, might not feel so fortunate today after having knee surgery Friday morning. Coach Mike Tomlin, however, described the surgery as "minor."
Allen was scheduled to become the fourth season-opening starter at left cornerback for the Steelers in the past four seasons, and he still might do that as Tomlin said he hopes to have him back in practice soon. If not, one of the previous three starters might return to the starting lineup: William Gay took over Allen's spot Friday.
Allen went through the first day of practice last Saturday, without pads, and hasn't appeared since.
"We evaluated him," Tomlin said. "We thought maybe it was worthy of a cleanup. We did that, there were no surprises, very positive actually. We look forward to getting him back out here soon."
Allen, in his third season, moved into the starting lineup this year after Keenan Lewis left as a free agent to sign with New Orleans after one year as the starting left cornerback.
Lewis took over in 2012 for Gay, who left that year as a free agent to sign with Arizona, where he started 15 games last season. The Cardinals, however, cut him March 1, and the Steelers re-signed him later that month. Gay had been slated to play in the nickel defense.
Gay moved into the slot when they went to the nickel defense Friday and Curtis Brown stepped in at left cornerback. Rookie safety Shamarko Thomas is a candidate to play when they use the dime or Big Quarter six-man secondary.
"People go down, and it's your chance to get positive work while you can," said Brown, who was drafted in the third round ahead of Allen in 2011. "We're going to hold it down for Cortez until he comes back and we'll be right back in the competition like we've been doing, pushing ourselves."
The Steelers have been hit hard at cornerback in this camp.
Rookie Terry Hawthorne, drafted in the fifth round, had knee surgery in the spring, which the Steelers still have not acknowledged, and has been sidelined the past few days. So, too, has DeMarcus Van Dyke, a third-round pick in 2011 by the Oakland Raiders who was claimed off waivers by the Steelers at the start of last season.
Allen, drafted in the fourth round in 2011, played in the nickel last season and, when Ike Taylor's arm was broken, he stepped in and played well as a starter. He started three games, missing a fourth with a groin injury, and had two interceptions and a forced fumble in the 15th game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals. He added two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in the final game against Cleveland.
Those two interceptions against Cincinnati represented a third of the secondary's entire season's worth of interceptions (six).
Any missed time for a first-year starter, though, is not time well-missed, and Taylor explained why:
"Just missing reps in training camp, getting a feel for guys, getting a good rhythm, going with the flow, building confidence every play, every snap. It's going to be tough, but I have confidence in him."
Fast shuffle in offensive line
Tomlin talked about flip-flopping his two starting offensive tackles in the spring. Friday, did it. Marcus Gilbert moved to the right side and Mike Adams to the left.
"Coach said he wanted flexibility, anything could happen, you know?" Gilbert said. "We're just trying to see what the best five positions are right now."
Gilbert started 13 games at right tackle as a rookie in 2011 for the injured Willie Colon. He started the first five games there last season before an ankle injury cut his season short. Adams replaced him and started six games before his own ankle injury drove him to the sideline.
The move could be permanent or merely an experiment.
"We're looking for the very best combination of people and that might include within groups," Tomlin said. "Both guys are left tackle capable, both guys were left tackles in college. We just want to provide an opportunity for those guys to show what they're capable of and find the very best combination."
• Rookie guard Nik Embernate has tears to his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and will undergo surgery at some point to repair both. He was injured in practice Thursday and will be placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
• With right defensive end Brett Keisel given the day off and right outside linebacker Jason Worilds out with a toe injury, the right side of the defense had a new look with Cameron Heyward at end and rookie Jarvis Jones at linebacker.
• Tomlin continued to have live tackling in some 11-on-11 drills, and rookie halfback Le'Veon Bell continued to excel. "He had some moments, some good moments," Tomlin said.
First Published August 2, 2013 5:45 PM