There’s no way of getting around the fact that NFL rosters are cyclical in nature. Every year at a minimum hundreds upon hundreds of new players under the labor market for just 32 NFL teams, each of whom field 63 players per season, plus those on injured reserve.
With hundreds of players drafted every year and just as many if not more coming in as undrafted free agents, it’s inevitable that some of the 2000-plus players with NFL contracts from the season before are going to lose their spots. Some teams see far more turnover than others on a regular basis.
As we get close to the draft, I want to do some risk assessment for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster based on their current needs and how they have handled them in free agency, compared to how they typically go about handling their business in the draft.
Asset: CB Brian Allen
Roster Vulnerability: Low
Role Vulnerability: Low
Technically speaking, given that all he did last season was serve as a gunner and jammer, and occasionally also played on the kick return team, it’s really hard to say that second-year cornerback Brian Allen is really vulnerable to lose his role.
But depending on what happens in the draft, the potential for him to climb the depth chart could suffer.
A 2017 fifth-round draft pick and a raw prospect who was given a redshirt season to develop, Allen’s ability to stay healthy and on the field helped him make the team as a rookie a year ago.
While he spent most of the first half of the season on the inactive list, he made the most of his opportunities when he did get a helmet, and by the end of the season earned himself regular playing time on special teams, which his often a foot in the door to play on offense or defense.
But right now he is staring up at a dept chart that sees at least four players ahead of him in Artie Burns, Joe Haden, Mike Hilton, and Cameron Sutton. Technically speaking, Coty Sensabaugh was ahead of him last year as well, though Sensabaugh may be even more likely to miss the roster altogether than Allen.
While I wouldn’t expect the cornerback position to be a high priority for the Steelers in this draft because of the current depth and the potential for their young prospects to develop, good value could force their hands to make a move. After all, Haden is likely not a long-term option and Burns has yet to solidify himself as one himself.
The consideration of his ability to move to safety might also shape their thinking. If they draft a cornerback, they could try moving him to safety to help keep him on the roster. that would also help them eliminate J.J. Wilcox’s contract at the same time.
But ultimately I don’t think the Steelers would go out of their way to jeopardize seeing what they can develop Allen into. I believe they’re intrigued. Still, he does have to make the team all over again and he wouldn’t be the first player to stumble in his second training camp.