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Steelers face decision as Cortez Allen recovers from knee injury

Cornerback Cortez Allen finally is getting healthy after missing 15 games with a knee injury. Will it be enough to stay in Pittsburgh, which can save $4.4 million in cap space by designating him as a post-June 1 cut?

That will become clear as early as the NFL combine, when teams and player representatives meet to discuss personnel matters.

But Allen never needed surgery on a cartilage issue, meaning the knee was not structurally problematic. The rehab has gone well. Those are positives after a tumultuous last few years.

The Steelers are in a tough spot with Allen, whose early-career play earned him a five-year, $24.6 million contract extension with the club. Allen was benched in 2014, prompting general manager Kevin Colbert to say during last offseason that the team needed more from him. Allen said he was dealing with injuries, and hoped for a resurgence in 2015. He played one game before heading to injured reserve.

The Steelers still like the natural cover ability that earned Allen the extension. Things are more complicated than that, though.

“He’s still here, he’s still under contract,” Colbert said this week. “Prior to him getting injured with the knee and the thumb, Cortez did some good things when he was younger. His production per snap was really, it was impressive and that’s why we signed him to the deal we did. Unfortunately for him and us, it just hasn’t matched up.”

If healthy, perhaps Allen sticks with Pittsburgh because of the team's uncertainty at cornerback. The Steelers must decide how important roughly $4 million in cap space will be. The Steelers have about $14 million in adjusted cap space, according to ESPN's roster management system, a number that will grow after Heath Miller's retirement.