It was only a relatively short time ago that Brian Allen was playing on the defensive side of the football for the very first time in his life, during his penultimate season at Utah. The converted wide receiver showed enough for the Pittsburgh Steelers to use a fifth-round draft pick in 2017.
A year on, he says that it’s become second nature to play cornerback, entering his fourth season of doing it. “Getting out here now, everything is coming more natural. I feel like I have been playing it my whole life”, he said.
Allen made the Steelers’ 53-man roster as a rookie, initially being carried as the team’s sixth cornerback and spending the early portion of his career as a healthy scratch. There is a very good chance that he might not have even made the roster had his fellow rookie, third-round cornerback Cameron Sutton, not gotten injured.
Sutton also made the initial 53-man roster, but only so that he could be moved to injured reserve with eligibility to receive the return designation. Allen made the most of the opportunity, though. Whenever he got a helmet he saw time on special teams, and became a fixture there by the end of the season.
He even passed veteran Coty Sensabaugh on the depth chart and received a regular active designation late in the year thanks to his ability to have success as a gunner and jammer on the punting units. He also contributed a bit in kick coverage.
Still, he’s not about to rest on his laurels, meager as they may be. While it’s hard to imagine him not making the 53-man roster from where we sit right now—the team didn’t add anybody via the draft or unrestricted free agency, for one thing—no player in his position should ever take his job for granted.
“I am just ready to get out here and compete and be with my brothers and do the things I love”, he told the team’s website. “Whoever they put out there, whether it’s me or another guy, I am going to continue to compete and do the things that I feel I can bring to the defense”.
If he can actually become a defensive contributor, even as a role player or as a trusted backup, that would be great. Of course we all are aware of our secrete hopes for his meteoric rise. He’s too big, too tall, and too fast not to daydream about him becoming a shutdown cornerback someday.
In the meantime, he’s still getting himself situated, but making steady progress in the task. “The game has slowed down a lot. The speed was way different”, he said. “In between the whistles you are going a lot faster and have to think a lot more. Just going in now I know the basis of the defense, I am learning the defense more, everything is coming naturally and I am ready to get out there and prove what I can do”.