It became tradition after the first week of spring drills for the Steelers' new starting cornerback to make bold predictions about himself, to forecast a Pro Bowl and great feats right away.

Keenan Lewis began that practice one year ago. Cortez Allen ended it Monday.

"I'm not that type to make predictions or boast about myself," Allen said as the Steelers resumed practices Monday with their fourth of the spring. "I'm a very humble guy. I just come to work every day and try to get better and better so I can help my team the best I can."

He plays a better game than he talks. That means he won't have to try to back up the kind of bravado his predecessor issued precisely at the same time a year ago, after just three spring practices as the Steelers' new starting cornerback paired with Ike Taylor.

"Pro Bowl," Lewis predicted for himself a year ago. "Watch out, this is going to be a big year right here."

Lewis did not make the Pro Bowl, but, in the overall scheme of things, after a slow start, he had a very good season as the Steelers' new left cornerback. It was good enough for New Orleans to sign him to a five-year contract worth $26 million.

Somehow it was not good enough for the Steelers to make him an offer to stay around longer. The reason: Cortez Allen.

While Lewis was making bold predictions a year ago, Allen was giving him a run for his money in a competition to replace the departed William Gay as the starting left corner. Lewis won, and his play upheld that decision, but no one on that coaching staff is hanging his head because Allen now is their starter, along with Taylor.

Coincidentally, Gay has returned, and the three are likely to be on the field together in some passing situations when the Steelers use five or six defensive backs.

Allen moved into the slot in those situations a year ago, joining Lewis and Taylor. He might move back to the slot when Gay comes onto the field this year because of his size, which he describes as "6 [feet] 2 and change."

"I don't know if that will be a game-plan thing as far as matchups," Allen said about moving into the slot. "Willie is where I learned a lot of it from, as well as Troy [Polamalu], Ryan [Clark] and Ike and others."

All those others might learn a thing or two from Allen when it comes to pilfering the football. It's been a large problem for a secondary that otherwise has been a reason the defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL in each of the past two seasons in fewest passing yards allowed.

The Steelers just don't produce turnovers the way they used to. They managed 11 interceptions in 2011 and of their 10 in 2012 only six came from a defensive back. Allen, though, was a turnover machine after he moved into the starting lineup at right cornerback to replace the injured Taylor late in the year. In the final two games, Allen had two interceptions (tying Clark for the most in the secondary), three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

"I think I've shown an ability to make plays in the defensive system," Allen said.