The Pittsburgh Steelers used a fifth-round pick on cornerback Brian Allen during the 2017 NFL Draft knowing that it would take a period of development before they could realistically hope to see him be a meaningful contributor of any sort on the defensive side of the ball.
Prior to about the middle of his tenure in college, Allen had spent the entirety of his football life playing on the offensive side of the ball, so he even now is still fairly new to the defensive back role. And he has already seen his position coach change once in his first three offseasons, with a new assistant coach added in between his second and third.
While Tom Bradley and Teryl Austin will obviously have his best interests in mind, there is one thing this offseason that he is hoping to be able to achieve on his own to give himself the best opportunity possible to make some sort of impact that year that will keep him on the 53-man roster for good.
He told Teresa Varley in an article for the team’s website recently that his goal this offseason is to improve his speed and quickness. He told the reporter that he returned to California in order to work with his personal trainer.
What will he be doing in order to achieve the often elusive goal of improving his speed? “Work on getting in and out of breaks faster”, he said. “A lot of band work, resistance work, jump rope work. Things to get my lower body stronger and keep my pad level down”.
It’s worth noting that Allen labored during his second preseason last year and ended up giving up a handful of big plays precisely because he was pressing to make splash plays. The problem is that he was always a half-step late. If he can pick up that half of a step, perhaps he can start finishing those plays and put himself in the conversation of being a contributor.
The big arrow in his quiver is, of course, his size. At 6’3” and 215 pounds, he is easily the biggest defensive back on the Steelers’ roster. taller cornerbacks are coveted, especially since many of the best wide receivers in the NFL tend to be similarly tall, so you see players like Allen get drafted on day three in the hopes that they can develop.
“Me, I am more of a physical player”, he said in juxtaposing himself to Joe Haden. “Joe is one of the guys who can cover people more with his feet. Me, I am more of a hands guy. I can cover guys being more physical with them. Little stuff like that that sets me apart from their skill set to mine”.
The Steelers invested $25.5 million in bringing in Steven Nelson this offseason to start across from Haden, while Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton project to man the inside positions. Allen is hoping to stay on as the number five cornerback, but the team could realistically add significant competition through the draft.