While it wasn’t the most high-profile move of the day for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the personnel decisions that I found to be most surprising during their roster trimming was their decision to part ways with second-year cornerback Brian Allen, a former fifth-round pick that one would have assumed they were willing to invest the time in to develop.
The Utah product spent all of his football life up until late in his college career playing on the offensive side of the ball. He eventually moved to defensive back in his penultimate year, seeing a full workload on the defensive side of the ball the year before he declared.
A big, 6’3” physical prospect, the Steelers took the chance on him, believing that they could potentially develop him into…well, anything, really. Even a backup would be pretty good value. But a year after finishing the season with seven cornerbacks, they are heading into this season with only five, and Allen is not among them.
A lot of observers were expecting the cornerback to make a big jump in his second season. Based on his comments back in the spring, he held the same expectations for himself. But he struggled pretty often during the preseason this year, even if he finished with a pretty strong performance against the Carolina Panthers.
Perhaps his most notable moments this preseason were the three plays in which he got a read on a pass and attempted to jump the route to score an interception. I personally liked the aggressiveness on these efforts in a meaningless game because it showed that he was processing information fast enough to do it.
Perhaps new defensive backs coach Tom Bradley felt differently. I do still expect that he will return to the team on the practice squad, providing that he is able to clear waivers. I know many are going to fear he will be claimed, but the odds are against that happening.
I did think that Allen had shown enough at this point in his career to at least make the team as a special teams contributor. He became a mainstay on the punt units, both as a gunner and as a jammer. This preseason, he worked as a four-phase player, working both kick coverage and returns.
I figured that this would be his role in 2018 as he gets another season to develop and mature. I paid a fair bit of attention to his work on special teams last season and thought he was developing into a legitimately good option there.
I guess Danny Smith thinks he can get by without him. Which is not exactly encouraging. Last season, the team was using Artie Burns and Joe Haden as jammers at times, and I’m hoping this is not an indication that we will see that again this year.
So is this the end of the road for Allen in Pittsburgh? Have they given up on a developmental prospect after two summers? Or will he be back on the practice squad? We should know soon enough.