As has been the norm thus far during the preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been giving rookie fifth-round cornerback Brian Allen quite a bit of playing time during the second half of games, and that trend continued last night during the team’s preseason finale, a last-minute victory over the Panthers.
A former wide receiver conversion, Allen was always deemed a project, which is, after all, why a 6’3” defensive back weighing nearly 220 pounds with quality speed and decent hands was able to last as deep into a draft as he did.
But the rookie has done virtually everything that he possibly can to fight for a spot on the 53-man roster, to the point at which the Steelers are going to have to think long and hard about potentially keeping seven cornerbacks on the roster, something that they may have never done ever in their history, at least as the start of a season.
The greatest asset that he has had in his holster all spring and summer long has been his durability. As far as I can recall, he has never even missed a rep of practice due to injury, and that has allowed him to take advantage of every opportunity presented to him.
He is also clearly at least reasonably well-conditioned when you consider the preseason workload that he has gotten, which includes but is not limited to his work on defense. He has also seen extended time on special teams, and of particular note is the number of snaps that he has logged working as a jammer on the punt return units.
This could be a home for him during his rookie season as he continues to develop his defensive skills. A big and agile player such as himself, should he dedicate himself to it, he could have the capacity to be a skilled jammer, and it appears as though the Steelers and Danny Smith might see this in him.
While he has played on other units, this may be his featured role, especially if he ends up making the 53-man roster. Should he do so, it would still be unlikely that he would manage to get a helmet on game day as a seventh cornerback under normal circumstances, although it is possible.
But it is the progress that he has made as a cornerback that could really potentially worry the Steelers about attempting to shift him over to the practice squad. While it is true that something like 97 percent of players who are waived are unclaimed, Allen could be the type of player who does.
While admittedly still somewhat raw and perhaps not ready-made to contribute, a cornerback-hungry team could look at him and see the development in him, and his ability to contribute on special teams, and take a chance. He made a couple of plays against the run and in coverage on a long ball last night, and I’m sure that teams around the league—including the Panthers—saw that.