Interview: Brian Allen Credits Veteran Secondary For Easing NFL Transition

Bringing you another Pittsburgh Steelers’ interview courtesy of our good friend Ron Lippock of the Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin. Today, Ron talks to Steelers 5th round draft pick Brian Allen. They go through his transition from wide receiver to cornerback, who is mentoring him, and his favorite spot in the city.

First, how is the offseason going for you – what have you been up to before camp starts?

Well, I’ve been back in Utah with my family – getting ready to move to Pittsburgh. I’ve been working out every day – twice a day – running at 6 am every morning…keeping my body healthy.

Coming off OTAs and your first camp, what were you biggest takeaways from those experiences?

The biggest thing is getting used to the speed of the game. The tempo – it slows down when you huddle but when it’s live, the speed is way different than college.  The terminology is different too. But the OTAs were great – minicamp was great too. Getting to work with the older guys helped a lot.

What did they help you with most?

Mostly technique things – to help my game. All the cornerbacks have different body types so have different things to work on and offer. Artie helped me with off-coverage. Ross – on how he plays press. Coty helped me with route recognition – they all helped with those kinds of things.

What are your thoughts about how many of those guys are helping you yet also some are looking at you as threats to their starting job or even roster spot?

At the end of the day it’s a job – we’re all fighting for a spot. I don’t look at it that way. I do the best I can and don’t worry what they do. I appreciate the advice and can only control what I can control.

So – you’re drafted round five. Were you surprised the Steelers drafted you and what did they tell you on the call?

Coach T called me and said “What’s going on big fella – ready to be a Steeler?” I almost had a nervous breakdown – I was so glad the process was over. Coach T, Lake, Coach Butts – they passed the phone around the room – the GM, Mr. Rooney – everyone. I was thrilled to be a Steeler but I was surprised yeah. I only talked to them once throughout the process. It was up in the air – a lot of teams I talked to three or four time. The fact they took me was a shock but I am happy to go to one of the best organizations in the NFL. A lot of Utah defensive backs in the NFL now.

Have you spoken to any of them and what about the program is making you guys successful?

Yeah – I’m close with Eric Rowe who’s in New England – he was telling me it can be really stressful but to just put my head down and work hard and trust God. In Utah, what they’re doing is playing a lot of man-to-man. Utah is doing that 90% of the time. They’re one of the cornerstone colleges no for press-man coverage. Rowe, McGill who’s with the Raiders, Smith too…Utah is the place now for cornerbacks.

Did the coaching staff give you any information on what your role will be with the team – slot, outside, special teams?

No one told me about my role yet no. They told me wherever they put me I just need to do my best. They said I have the physical traits to help them win as a big cornerback ….I’ll just do my best and give it all I got.

What specifically do you think you need to work on, especially as you came out of college a bit raw at the position?

This will only be my third year now playing cornerback. I’m just listening to the guys – I got great advice from Willie Gay every time I stepped off the field after a play – do this or that.

What’s your biggest learning curve?

The thing I have to get acclimated to is playing off-coverage. I pressed-up at Utah. In OTAs I worked on off coverage nine out of ten times to get used to it. It’s a new technique for me.

How specifically are you working on that?

I stayed after practice – worked with receivers – especially with JuJu – on releases for both press and off coverage reps. Picturing receivers running different routes mentally and the things I need to do on those routes. Trying to be the best corner I can be.

Switching it up a bit – tell me a bit about the humor on this team you’ve experienced so far?

It’s a bunch of funny guys – Artie is a jokester. It’s a big group – we have a group message and we message each other a lot with “who looks like who” stuff. JuJu is the biggest jokester. We all care about everyone – we all have the same mission – the same goal.

As a rookie, special teams are a key element to making the team. Tell me a bit about your special teams experience and what they’ve said to you about that?

Special teams can be the biggest deciding factor in winning and losing.  I played special teams all four years at Utah – that falls into my background. Coach Smith has talked to me a lot about special teams –  he likes me as a gunner because I’m a big guy who can run. He also likes me as a jammer and on the inside as a wing guy.

Before being moved to corner, you played receiver. How do you think this helps you know as a corner, if at all?

The biggest thing is that with the wide receiver experience, I can recognize splits better and eliminate routes because of it. By recognizing if its an outside route I know how to play the receiver…I can see how they come off the ball and understand routes faster.

So – an early impressions about the city itself? Anything you like most?

I love the view from Mt. Washington – I’ve been up there a couple of times and we took a Segway tour near the river before leaving mini-camp. Being there and seeing the stadium – I watched that on TV and now seeing that in real life – it’s surreal. That’s my real life now.

Any last thoughts for fans?

I’m just happy to be a Steeler. I’m going to give it all I’ve got for you guys to bring Super Bowl number seven home.

That’s “We” now, you know?

Oh yeah – for all of us, yeah!

Be sure to check out Ron’s book, Steelers’ Takeaways: Player Memories Through The Decades, featuring over 400 interviews with players and coaches, past and present. You can buy it on Amazon through the link provided here.

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