Steelers CB Brian Allen on Year 2: ‘Everything’s becoming more natural’
At this time last year, Brian Allen was talking plenty about his path to the Steelers: a one-time receiver at the University of Utah who moved to defense late in his college career, blew people away at the combine and therefore earned “talented-but-raw” status.
But it’s been 13 months since Allen was a fifth-round draft choice, almost nine months since he made the Steelers out of training camp and more than four months since he finished his rookie NFL season in which he played 83 snaps (just one on defense, the rest on special teams).
Now that Allen is embarking on Year 2 in the NFL, as they say, the past is the past. He doesn’t necessarily want to be labeled as “a project” – even an intriguing one who stands 6 feet 3 and can run the 40 in 4.4 seconds – anymore.
Allen is eager to shed that label in the best way possible: showing he can be a reliable NFL defensive back. But while that unofficial “raw” designation can weigh a player down, it also can carry with it a modicum of security. After all, by its very nature, a “project”-type player doesn’t have to produce now – he’s seen as someone who can contribute down the road.
After another year at corner and a year under the tutelage of NFL coaches has Allen feeling comfortable and ready to compete for a role on the Steelers’ defense.
“Last year, everyone knew my story, the defensive thing was new to me, and going from just two years in college straight to the NFL, it’s a big jump,” Allen said after an organized team activity session this week. “It is kind of as if you do not have time to develop.
“So last year, going against (Antonio Brown) and all those guys really helped me develop my game.”
The Steelers showed the promise and potential they see in Allen by keeping him on the 53-man roster all season long despite the lack of defined role they had for him in 2017. He was a Sunday deactive six of the first eight games of the season but after that “earned a hat” regularly the remainder of the season when he became a special teams regular .
Then came an offseason in which William Gay was released and the Steelers elected against taking a cornerback in the draft for the first time since 2008. They’d taken 13 in those 10 prior drafts, including five in the previous three.
It was another very subtle nod to the faith the Steelers have that Allen could turn into a player for them.
— TribLIVE.com (@TribLIVE) February 7, 2018
With Joe Haden, Artie Burns and Mike Hilton entrenched as starters and Cameron Sutton (Allen’s 2017 draft class mate) on deck after an injury-shortened rookie season, Allen still has a ways to go to become a regular on defense. But with a tweaked scheme that might add increasingly more defensive backs onto the field at once, perhaps there’s an opening for Allen.
Also, with Haden’s 2019 salary-cap figure approaching $12 million, maybe strong play from Allen can make him a viable future option.
In short, endless possibilities open up if Allen can show he’s ready to begin cashing in on his seemingly limitless potential during his second pro season.
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) January 22, 2018
“Going into Year 2, I feel like everything’s coming more naturally to me and I am more adapted to the defense and more used to the speed of the game,” Allen said.
“So from here on out I am looking to just keep progressing my game and hopefully get some defensive reps so I can make an impression.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.