Brian Allen’s Slow Progress Strengthens Sensabaugh’s Grip On Roster Spot

The Pittsburgh Steelers took a chance on very raw cornerback prospect Brian Allen with a fifth-round pick last season during the NFL Draft. He had a promising rookie season, including in the preseason, where he flashed the potential to function as an NFL cornerback with some time to develop, but more importantly, he looked like a player who could contribute quickly on special teams.

And he did. And he will continue to do so this year. But the concern is that he has not really shown much of any growth in terms of playing the cornerback position heading into year two. That’s not to say that his future development is doomed, but it does mean that he is probably not a player that you can trust to put out there on defense this season.

And that means that you probably want a different number five cornerback. While you might feel good about the promise of Cameron Sutton as your number four, the top backup at all three cornerback positions both inside and outside, you know that you need five cornerbacks that you can actually put on the field.

Enter Coty Sensabaugh, a guy that you don’t want to have to put on the field, but that you can feel comfortable doing if it becomes necessary. The veteran cornerback has performed better during his second offseason with the Steelers after he finished the 2017 season as a healthy scratch, demoted from both defensive and special teams play.

But he is fairly cheap veteran depth who has an extra year of experience in the system. And with Mike Hilton currently nursing an injury, it also makes sense to have that extra body out there right now. If anybody goes down, Sensabaugh would be the first player off the bench with Sutton assuming a starting position, as he has in the slot during the last two preseason games.

As for Allen, he has seemingly been working on trying to play more aggressively this preseason, but he has taken a couple of big risks in coverage and gotten burned. His technique overall remains unrefined in spite of the teachings of Tom Bradley, whom everybody already loves even though we have yet to see the true fruits of his labors. But hey, he’s not Carnell Lake and that’s all that seems to matter.

It’s not exactly unheard of for a player who is new to his position to take more than a season or two to begin to truly look the part. It certainly would not make much of any sense to give up on Allen at this point in his career, especially given that he has already demonstrated the ability to be a strong contributor on special teams. That said, he hasn’t made the improvements hoped for up to this point, so that means there needs to be another arrangement on the depth chart.

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