The Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to bolster their secondary in a deep class. They may not have gotten the most intriguing prospects, but they have managed to add two cornerbacks over the course of the past two days that will provide competition and upside to a room that many are eying for improvement.
The upside reference is mainly in regard, however, to the Steelers’ fifth-round draft pick, cornerback Brian Allen, a former wide receiver—a somewhat ironic choice considering the success that former tryout wide receiver signing C.J. Goodwin ended up converting to cornerback with the Falcons last year.
Allen, a 6’3”, 215-pound prospect, turned in a sub-4.5 40 and had solid athletic numbers overall—sans one, which I’ll get to later—but he wasn’t being utilized at Utah, which prompted his conversion from the offensive side of the ball to the defense.
That conversion began in 2014, and it has been and remains a process. As a former wide receiver, it’s probably not too surprising that there are concerns about his tackling, which is a weakness that he is aware of.
He was asked about that after he was picked. “There is still a lot of work that needs to be done”, he said, but he also was open in his belief that he has improved, and is “just happy and excited for this opportunity to get to work”.
One red flag that many targeted for Allen in terms of his athleticism is the fact that he posted a poor shuttle time at the Combine—yet this three-cone drill performance was top-notch. It’s hard to reconcile the two. Which is why he was asked about that as well, specifically if he has issues cutting.
“Not at all”, he told reporters, going on to say that he really doesn’t know how to explain that number, but added that he improved on his numbers during his Pro Day performance. His 20-yard shuttle improved from 4.34 to 4.18, which would have tied him at 10th in the draft class with first-round pick Gareon Conley.
The Steelers were not able to hit on great value at the cornerback position in this draft—they frequently found that the best values came off the board soon before their slot to choose came up—so in the later rounds they took a different approach and looked for upside with the conversion project in Allen.
As you might have gathered, his intrigue is in his size and in his potential ball skills. He is, I believe, the second-tallest player on the team now among their defensive backs or wide receivers, and as a former wide receiver himself, should know how to catch the ball.
The Steelers admittedly do not have a good history of drafting cornerbacks in the fifth round, with the most recent names being Joe Burnett, Crezdon Butler, Terry Hawthorne, and Shaquille Richardson. And Allen’s impact will likely not be immediate, even if he makes the team. But there is at least upside to like. If he can learn to tackle, his size would be a matchup consideration.