It seems that whenever Cortez Allen is about to turn the corner, something trips him up.

The Steelers third-year cornerback was supposed to step in for the departed Keenan Lewis. But a series of nagging injuries and a breakdown in fundamentals swung the gate open for veteran William Gay.

Allen, a 6-foot-1 corner with exceptional closing speed, spent much of this season watching and learning. An injury in the season opener paved the way for Gay to start two games, but by Week 6 Allen had lost the job.

Again, it seemed he hadn't fulfilled the lofty expectations.

“I don't get into what everyone else expects of me because I expect a lot out of myself,” said Allen, who will make his sixth start this season when the Steelers face the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field. “I expect to make plays. I know I have a long way to go, but I'm working on it every day.

“I always took the approach that I'm the starter. So when it happened, it wasn't a surprise. It's like when (cornerback) Ike (Taylor) went down at the end of last year, I had to be ready. When it's your opportunity, you have to make the most of it.”

For Allen, his demotion proved invaluable. He polished his coverage skills and tackled better while playing a key role in the Steelers' nickel and dime packages.

“The season didn't start the way I wanted it to, but as the season progressed, things improved,” said Allen, who has 38 tackles, one interception and 10 pass breakups. “I try to work on my weaknesses every day. It's a process, and I never want to feel comfortable.