I think it would be fair to say that Pittsburgh Steelers rookie cornerback Brian Allen is a play who could be described as being on the bubble. While he is currently on the 53-man roster, he does not have a lot of job security as the low man on the totem pole.
In fact, it is within the realm of possibility that he could be released by the time this article publishes. The Steelers still have to make a cut to activate Le’Veon Bell for tomorrow’s game. But even if he survives that, his spot could be in jeopardy mid-season to activate Cameron Sutton, the other rookie cornerback, from injured reserve.
But until either of those things happen, Allen made the 53-man roster, and he did so by showing growth in his play over the course of the preseason—including getting work as a jammer on special teams, among other roles.
He did play some of his best football of the preseason in the finale against the Panthers, seeing a lot of snaps in the second half. Although he did give up some receptions—as he did here below—he showed a lot of growth in being able to break on the ball much quicker than in the preseason opener. He may have been able to contest a more poorly-placed ball here.
The 6’3”, 215-pounder also showed his physicality, taking on a load of a running back coming off the edge with a good head of steam. Naturally, Allen did get rocked a bit, but he did manage to take the back down and hold him to a five-yard gain, and he bounced right back up.
On the very next play, the Panthers wanted to test him deep down the field in an example that I think both showcases some of his attributes while also indicating potential areas of improvement. For one thing, he trailed a bit, but he was able to not only stay in phase but to put himself in a position to turn his head around.
In doing so, however, he still failed to time a contested jump—yet he is so tall that he actually was able to get a fingertip on the ball. Trust me, I watched it zoomed in in super-slow motion. So all in one play you have a couple of things that helped him make the roster and a couple more that likely nearly kept him off.
We’ll wrap things up with one more play, another reception allowed, but in this instance, as in the first play, he showed improved reaction time with a good click-and-close, able to hammer the receiver right after making the catch to keep him shy of a first down on second and eight.
It’s obvious through four preseason games that the former wide receiver showed he has some talent, and I do think that he was deserving of earning the roster spot. He has some work to do in his game, but I think the Steelers right now can afford to be patient.