Big weekend for longtime safety Will Allen’s former teams

Sports

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2013, file photo, Cleveland Browns running back Edwin Baker (27) loses his helmet as he is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Will Allen (20) in the third quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh. The Steelers won 20-7. Whether playing in Three Rivers Stadium or at Heinz Field, most of Cleveland’s trips down the Turnpike and across the Pennsylvania state line have not gone well. The Browns are just 6-41 on their visits to the Steel City since 1970. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)

Will Allen won a national championship at Ohio State 18 years ago and played nearly all of his 12 seasons in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers.

His former teams have quite a busy weekend.

Led by Tom Brady, the Buccaneers (11-5) are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007 when Allen played safety for them. They’ll visit Washington (7-9) in an NFC wild-card game on Saturday night.

The Steelers (12-4) host the Cleveland Browns (11-5) in an AFC wild-card game on Sunday night.

On Monday night, Ohio State (7-0) faces Alabama (12-0) for the national championship.

“Tom Brady, obviously, he’s a Hall of Famer,” Allen said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “He knows how to will the team and will his way to victories. He’s done that time and time again. I don’t think it’s going to be any different. I think if he doesn’t make mistakes, doesn’t turn over the ball, gets the ball to those playmakers that they have, they have a great chance because their defense is unreal. They have a great chance to make it to the NFC championship. And then it’s the best team that doesn’t make mistakes.”

As for the Steelers, Allen views Ben Roethlisberger as a difference-maker.

“I think it’s a grind for him when you’re in your 17th season, 38 years old, you had a devastating injury to your throwing arm the previous year,” said Allen, who is three months younger than Roethlisberger. “It’s tough. He’s taken a lot of hits. He was playing in the NFL when there was no protection against quarterbacks. So now he’s got to muscle and will his way through. I think he can. He’s instinctively one of the best quarterbacks in the league, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play. And he’s going to have to rely heavily on that and get the ball downfield to those playmakers. If he doesn’t throw interceptions, they’ll play in the AFC championship game.”

Both the Buccaneers and Steelers are favorites to win their games. The Buckeyes are 8-point underdogs against Alabama so they have the toughest challenge.

”(They have to) not be nervous, not be scared,” Allen said of Ohio State. “You’ve got to mix up defenses because Devonta Smith is real. He’s going to go for 200 (yards) if they don’t do something to slow him down. And, offensive game-planning has to be on point just like it was against Clemson. Throw some different wrinkles in there, things they haven’t seen before. Throwing to the tight ends was huge. They haven’t thrown to the tight end in three or four years at Ohio State. And to be able to do that in critical moments of the game in the red zone when they failed at that last year was huge. So throw those little wrinkles in, keep them guessing, and defense play nasty, play fearless. And, I think we have a great chance of winning late in the fourth quarter.”

Allen has transitioned well to life after football. He’s a venture capitalist about to join a firm in Pittsburgh that plans to support underrepresented founders, including African-Americans and women who need capital.

“I tell everyone I’ve been an entrepreneur and investing in myself since I was 8 years old,” Allen said. “To be able to make it to the NFL and the ups and downs and the volatility and risk that I’ve taken has prepared me from that standpoint, from a mental standpoint. I’ve also been taking reps by making an investment with my own wealth into companies and helping these companies grow, scale and expand their businesses.”

Allen is also among an all-star cast of athlete investors in PlayersTV.

“I’m really excited about PlayersTV,” he said. “It’s the first all-athlete media platform, and also owned by athletes, to showcase real-life stories and real live content on the other side of the court or the field. And, it’s really it’s exciting.”

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