Steelers CB Brian Allen eager for 2018 after making 'big jump' as rookie
Six players started a regular-season game at cornerback for the Steelers in 2017.
Brian Allen wasn't one of them. In fact, Allen didn't get on the field for a defensive snap.
But that doesn't mean Allen's rookie season won't necessarily go down as a success.
“I feel like my game has gone from wherever everybody had me (at the time of the draft) to a big jump now,” Allen said the day after the Steelers' season ended. “So I feel like going into next season – while there's still a lot to improve on – I'm ready to make that jump and show the coaches what I can do and really help the team not only on special teams but as well on defense.”
At 6 feet 3 with 4.4 speed, Allen definitely has the potential to the Steelers – or any team, really. It's just been a matter of technique and learning the intricacies of cornerback for a player who in high school and as a freshman at the University of Utah was a wide receiver.
As such, Allen was the proverbial “raw” prospect whom the Steelers nabbed in the fifth round of this past April's draft. Under the very best of scenarios, they probably never dreamed he'd be a part of their defense this season; that he made the 53-man roster was a sign of what he organization thought of him.
That by the end of the season he was “earning a hat” (not being an inactive) over the final eight games (including playoffs), it was clear Allen was showing the Steelers something they liked.
“Those times when I was inactive, it was definitely hard because I wanted to be out there playing with the guys,” Allen said. “Because I am a competitor – what guys wouldn't want to be out there? But at the end of the day, it's all about winning. When I was inactive, we were winning games. And when we would lose when I was inactive, I was still right there for my brothers no matter what. But looking back on it, it was a successful season.”
Allen said he learned it was “definitely a humungous jump from college.” But that provided quality on-the-job training, particularly in practice because Allen had a talented receivers group with diverse skillsets to cover.
Allen specifically mentioned Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant.
“Those two are two totally different guys, so seeing both aspects of it, it definitely helps you improve your game,” he said. “Martavis is one of those guys who is going to stretch you down the field, so I can use my length and my speed in that way to develop. And ‘AB' is more a quicker guy who runs good routes, and that helps me develop more getting in and out of my breaks, dropping low – he's a smaller guy; I'm a taller guy. Going against all those different types of guys has definitely helped me improve my game a lot.”
Allen got good feedback, too.
“I talk to ‘AB' after every practice,” Allen said, “and he's telling me that (the coaches are) watching film, he says, ‘Coach sees you getting better, they see it, so just keep working.'
“Now that my first season is over, I'm just looking down the line, ‘Just keep progressing, hopefully end up getting a starting job or getting more playing time as it goes.' Right now, I'm not pressing; it's coaches' decision, so I am going to just sit back and play my role.