Devil’s Advocate: Brian Allen Tackling A Roster Spot

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will Brian Allen hone his skills well enough to make the 53-man roster as a rookie?

During the 2017 NFL Draft, the Steelers took not one, but two defensive players who have been undergoing a transition from the offensive side of the ball the past two seasons. The big one is obviously first-round pick T.J. Watt, who started out his career as a tight end, but moved to outside linebacker in order to actually see some playing time. It worked out pretty well.

The other was fifth-round cornerback Brian Allen, who was a wide receiver to start out in college, but, like Watt, in the hopes of seeing more snaps, accepted the move to another position. His transition has obviously been met with some success, but his skill set is still quite raw—something the Steelers shot down regarding Watt’s development.

Allen wouldn’t be the first raw cornerback to bear that last name who was a question to make the 53-man roster, as the same sorts of questions faced Cortez Allen in 2011, though he was a more physical player. He ultimately made the roster and even contributed on defense against the Patriots that year.

Just last year, Artie Burns played far more than many expected him to because they believed that he would be too unpolished to do so. Now, they may have forced the issue some in that case and even simplified their coverages on his behalf, but it worked for the most part. All Allen has to do is make the roster.

Cornerback is a position that has a lot of bodies right now, however, and it will be difficult for him to find a spot. There will be room for Senquez Golson as long as he is healthy. They have waited too long to see him in action to just dump him unless he can’t stay healthy.

Allen has a fundamentally deficient tackling approach that will need to be weaned out of him, and it’s not clear at all if that can happen just through training camp and the preseason. There’s definitely a strong chance that they try to add him to the practice squad—and given his rawness, he might not be widely-suited. Doran Grant was a fourth-rounder and made the practice squad.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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