There are some fans—and to be fair, probably some coaches, too—who will almost always, under any circumstances, favor a player with the ethereal quality of ‘upside’ over a veteran player who is not a star, or at least a starter. So when the Pittsburgh Steelers elected to retain veteran cornerback Coty Sensabaugh over second-year Brian Allen, a number of people were not happy about it.
Setting aside the fact that Allen did safely make it onto the team’s practice squad for the time being, the reality was that he actually put together an overall worse preseason in 2018 than he did as a rookie, at least from a results standpoint. The coaching staff evaluated his tape and decided the best 53-man roster was one that did not include him on it right now.
That does not mean that he will not be given the opportunity to continue his development in the hopes of someday becoming a defensive contributor. But according to Gerry Dulac, there was one reason in particular that Sensabaugh was favored.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Tweeted last night that “for those asking, the Steelers kept Coty Sensabaugh over Brian Allen because they think he is a better cover corner”. Now, I would like to think that this is information that somebody within the organization actually gave to him and is not just his own speculation.
For those who keep asking, the Steelers kept Coty Sensabaugh over Brian Allen because they think he is a better cover corner.
— Gerry Dulac (@gerrydulac) September 3, 2018
But there is also reason to believe that this is true. And perhaps this is even something that Allen knew, because he was told by the coaches that he needs to work on his man coverage. And maybe that helps to explain why he took so many risks in coverage over the past three preseason games, which resulted in him getting burned each time.
I initially chalked it up as a sign of progress, an indication that he was growing into the position and processing information fast enough to actually be able to attempt to make plays on the football now. But provided that Dulac is right, it may have simply been an act of desperation on the part of the former wide receiver in the hopes of retaining his spot on the 53-man roster.
The Steelers brought in new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley this year, who has talked about playing more man coverage this season multiple times. They believe that they have the cornerbacks now to do it with Artie Burns in his third year, Joe Haden having a full offseason to digest the defense, and Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton working in the slot.
As I have already stated a number of times, I still felt that Allen’s work on special teams justified strong consideration for the 53-man roster, but perhaps the team felt that they already had enough players on special teams, and the truth is that Sensabaugh will likely just slide into his role there. He was doing those tasks before Allen took over a year ago.