Interview: Brian Allen Credits Veteran Secondary For Easing NFL Transition

Bringing you another Pittsburgh Steelers’ interview courtesy of our good friend Ron Lippock of the Pittsburgh Sports Daily Bulletin. Today, Ron talks to Steelers 5th round draft pick Brian Allen. They go through his transition from wide receiver to cornerback, who is mentoring him, and his favorite spot in the city.

First, how is the offseason going for you – what have you been up to before camp starts?

Well, I’ve been back in Utah with my family – getting ready to move to Pittsburgh. I’ve been working out every day – twice a day – running at 6 am every morning…keeping my body healthy.

Coming off OTAs and your first camp, what were you biggest takeaways from those experiences?

The biggest thing is getting used to the speed of the game. The tempo – it slows down when you huddle but when it’s live, the speed is way different than college.  The terminology is different too. But the OTAs were great – minicamp was great too. Getting to work with the older guys helped a lot.

What did they help you with most?

Mostly technique things – to help my game. All the cornerbacks have different body types so have different things to work on and offer. Artie helped me with off-coverage. Ross – on how he plays press. Coty helped me with route recognition – they all helped with those kinds of things.

What are your thoughts about how many of those guys are helping you yet also some are looking at you as threats to their starting job or even roster spot?

At the end of the day it’s a job – we’re all fighting for a spot. I don’t look at it that way. I do the best I can and don’t worry what they do. I appreciate the advice and can only control what I can control.

So – you’re drafted round five. Were you surprised the Steelers drafted you and what did they tell you on the call?

Coach T called me and said “What’s going on big fella – ready to be a Steeler?” I almost had a nervous breakdown – I was so glad the process was over. Coach T, Lake, Coach Butts – they passed the phone around the room – the GM, Mr. Rooney – everyone. I was thrilled to be a Steeler but I was surprised yeah. I only talked to them once throughout the process. It was up in the air – a lot of teams I talked to three or four time. The fact they took me was a shock but I am happy to go to one of the best organizations in the NFL. A lot of Utah defensive backs in the NFL now.

Have you spoken to any of them and what about the program is making you guys successful?

Yeah – I’m close with Eric Rowe who’s in New England – he was telling me it can be really stressful but to just put my head down and work hard and trust God. In Utah, what they’re doing is playing a lot of man-to-man. Utah is doing that 90% of the time. They’re one of the cornerstone colleges no for press-man coverage. Rowe, McGill who’s with the Raiders, Smith too…Utah is the place now for cornerbacks.

Did the coaching staff give you any information on what your role will be with the team – slot, outside, special teams?

No one told me about my role yet no. They told me wherever they put me I just need to do my best. They said I have the physical traits to help them win as a big cornerback ….I’ll just do my best and give it all I got.

What specifically do you think you need to work on, especially as you came out of college a bit raw at the position?

This will only be my third year now playing cornerback. I’m just listening to the guys – I got great advice from Willie Gay every time I stepped off the field after a play – do this or that.

What’s your biggest learning curve?

The thing I have to get acclimated to is playing off-coverage. I pressed-up at Utah. In OTAs I worked on off coverage nine out of ten times to get used to it. It’s a new technique for me.

How specifically are you working on that?

I stayed after practice – worked with receivers – especially with JuJu – on releases for both press and off coverage reps. Picturing receivers running different routes mentally and the things I need to do on those routes. Trying to be the best corner I can be.

Switching it up a bit – tell me a bit about the humor on this team you’ve experienced so far?

It’s a bunch of funny guys – Artie is a jokester. It’s a big group – we have a group message and we message each other a lot with “who looks like who” stuff. JuJu is the biggest jokester. We all care about everyone – we all have the same mission – the same goal.

As a rookie, special teams are a key element to making the team. Tell me a bit about your special teams experience and what they’ve said to you about that?

Special teams can be the biggest deciding factor in winning and losing.  I played special teams all four years at Utah – that falls into my background. Coach Smith has talked to me a lot about special teams –  he likes me as a gunner because I’m a big guy who can run. He also likes me as a jammer and on the inside as a wing guy.

Before being moved to corner, you played receiver. How do you think this helps you know as a corner, if at all?

The biggest thing is that with the wide receiver experience, I can recognize splits better and eliminate routes because of it. By recognizing if its an outside route I know how to play the receiver…I can see how they come off the ball and understand routes faster.

So – an early impressions about the city itself? Anything you like most?

I love the view from Mt. Washington – I’ve been up there a couple of times and we took a Segway tour near the river before leaving mini-camp. Being there and seeing the stadium – I watched that on TV and now seeing that in real life – it’s surreal. That’s my real life now.

Any last thoughts for fans?

I’m just happy to be a Steeler. I’m going to give it all I’ve got for you guys to bring Super Bowl number seven home.

That’s “We” now, you know?

Oh yeah – for all of us, yeah!


Be sure to check out Ron’s book, Steelers’ Takeaways: Player Memories Through The Decades, featuring over 400 interviews with players and coaches, past and present. You can buy it on Amazon through the link provided here.

  • Dave

    Allen’s experience on special teams is the key to his roster spot and oh do we need help in this area. I could see him playing some situational defense later in the year (maybe man him up against Gronk since there’s few in the league who can slow that man down). 3-4 years from now he could surpass the productivity of many of the CB’s taken in the 1st round of the 2017 draft class.

  • Rob H

    I’ve made no secret of the fact that I really like this kid since I started reading up on him when he was drafted. That interview only strengthens that feeling I have about him, really great job of coming up with poignant and relevant questions. Especially liked what he had to say about special teams, and working after practice with Ju Ju, and what he is working most on.
    I think one thing that may be getting overlooked about how raw he is, is the fact that it can in many ways be an advantage to the coaches to be able to build up a player who hasn’t has much time to develop bad habits, forcing him to unlearn things, they have a pretty clean slate to instill the techniques and habits required in the pro game.

  • VaDave

    One thing that is in his favor is we can put him in and assign him one guy to cover, which is a lot easier that him trying to learn all those zone concepts. Stick him on the move TE and let him be. We did that with Ike Taylor when he was a rookie. I think we will get some play out of him this year. Next year, look out,, he’s a stud in the making. One other thing, I find it interesting when these rookies come out of mini camp and talk about how fast the speed is compared to college. If they think OTAs are fast, wait ’till they get to camp, or the regular season…..

  • hdogg48

    Everything I read and see about this kid’s physical gifts
    says to me enormous upside…except one…needs to learn
    how to tackle.

    EVERYONE on the SB Champion and #1 Scoring Defense NE
    Patriots knows how to tackle.

    Scheme freakin’ speem, impose speed and physicality on your
    opposition and wrap them up and take them down…quick and hard.

  • colingrant

    A huge nugget was unearthed in that interview, which is Allen played special teams all 4 years in college. That’s an edge that possibly makes the difference between him being a practice squad player or on the 45 man roster. Most rookie draftees have little to no special team experience, as they often played important roles on their college team.

    At 6’3, 215-225 with pretty good speed, his special teams impact could be more than just a trivial bio note. Should James Conner live up to his anticipated special teams contribution and Allen leverage his ST experience and compliment the two special team stars in Rosie Nix and Heyward-Bey, an unexpected improvement in ST coverage could be realized.

    BTW, as a Pitt fan I think Conner’s anticipated ST contribution might be slightly overstated. Colbert cited him playing some defensive end at Pitt as a catalyst of him possibly being a ST candidate. I never missed a Pitt game and Conner may have played 10 snaps tops at the position and I can only remember 1 or 2 tackles. Nonetheless, the fact that he even played some defensive end is a trait indicating his willingness to tackle. Additionally and perhaps more important, is his physical running style gives credence to his willingness to initiate contact, a prerequisite for tackling and ST contribution.

  • newguy68

    With you 1000%

  • falconsaftey43

    Great to hear he has ST experience. That’s the key to him making the roster this year. Not to mention out ST have been poor.

  • SilverSteel

    Why does everyone keep saying he can’t tackle? Porter commented that it was a strength not a weakness.

  • SilverSteel

    Good point.

  • hdogg48

    I’m going by tape and his draft profile.

    Richard Sherman went in the late rounds too,
    but tackling was never his weakness.

    Let’s see what he does in camp and in pre season games.

    If he can lay some serious wood in the secondary or
    on special teams, he’ll be on the 53. I’d like to see him
    as a strong safety, or a nickle or dime package
    LB/CB/SS hybrid type charged with covering
    TEs.

    In order to do this, he has to be a sure tackler. Tight Ends have
    been eating up this D for close to a decade now.

  • Steve Johnson

    Agreed, I went back and watched a great deal of film on Allen, he tackles better than Artie Burns and Sean Davis combined.

  • SilverSteel

    Sweet. Can’t wait for camp

  • Steeler Nation!

    Hopefully Allen and Conner can have significant roles on our special teams and send DHB packing. We need contributions now and in the future from our WR core, and he will do neither.

  • SilverSteel

    Agreed. If he can tackle, and play ST, we have a new CB on the 53.

  • capehouse

    This is gonna be the kid that everyone cries about when he doesn’t make the 53.

  • WARisHELL

    He’ll never clear waivers!!!!!! tee hee

  • Wil Masisak

    Love this kid; been following his career for a while now. If he isn’t an excellent pro for years, I’ll eat this post.

  • hdogg48

    I just looked up Cam Chancellor’s 2010 Draft profile.

    He, too went in th 5th round and was drafted as a free safety
    out of Virginia Tech.

    Allen has the same size, yet is faster and stronger. Chancellor
    was coached up big time, and is among the best strong safeties
    in the game right now.

    If I’m Lake I would be looking at Chancellor
    as the blueprint of what I would like Allen to
    look like within the next 3 years.

  • Wil Masisak

    Agree about bad habits– Utah’s DB coaches have an excellent track record for recruiting and training future NFL players, though. But let’s not kid ourselves– Allen isn’t that raw. You could argue that Artie Burns was much more raw coming out, and people expected that he would play right away.

  • Wil Masisak

    What tape did you see where he had trouble tackling? He tackles better and is more willing to be physical as a tackler than 90% of the CBs drafted this year.

  • Wil Masisak

    Conner was recruited as an edge rusher/LB… I think that’s where the optimism comes from.

  • hdogg48

    I see him more of a Srong or Free Safety Project
    than a cornerback with his combination of size
    strength and speed.

    That will require ELITE tackling skills, which at this
    point he lacks, but given the right situation and
    coaching he could develop.

  • WreckIess

    He’s pretty bad at tackling. He’s even admitted that he “didn’t know how to tackle”. He’s physical, but being as he’s only played corner for a couple years, a lot of the technique is lost on him.

  • Wil Masisak

    Carnell Lake said one thing that stood out to him in watching Allen’s film is what a good tackler he is. Allen said that tackling was unfamiliar to him when he first started out as a CB, but he’s a long way from that now.

  • Wil Masisak

    I think he could be a pretty good big nickel/dime defender on the interior, but Allen is a prototypical long, press man corner, with the physical gifts to potentially be a #1 outside CB in the NFL. To find a guy like him, from CBU pedigree, with his length/speed, who is a willing tackler/hitter/support in underneath and run game– those guys are unicorns. If on top of that he works hard and is mature, the sky is the limit.

  • hdogg48

    He has the size, speed and strength to become
    versatile in many DB situations.

    Also he seems like an ideal fit to take Will Allen’s
    back up SS position and eventually be Mike Mitchell’s
    replacement.

  • WreckIess

    I haven’t heard Lake say anything about him being a good tackler. If he did, he’s contradicting everything that’s been put on tape.

  • colingrant

    He was indeed. He committed in the summer before his senior year. As his senior year unfolded, his running back tape surprised Pitt and eventually the staff decided to move him to running back at the surprise of many as he didn’t play much as a junior in high school due to another D1 player on the team. I still think he can play outside LB in a 3-4 and I’m actually a little curious, but I’ll never get the chance to see it 🙂

    In his first showing at DE at Pitt, he was a 250 lbs true sophomore playing a MAC school in a bowl game. I think it was Northern Illinois. He was stout against the run and had a very tight natural spin move as a pass rusher, which got him in the backfield and disruptive in just one series. With very little practice time, he applied 2-3 pressures and caused a TFL in the final series of the win, chasing the QB out of bounds, so it wasn’t during a comfortable time in the game. It was actually on the line.

    Although I think the small sample he provided didn’t warrant a leap to playing NFl ST, I do think the logic overall had merit for sure. I’m nitpicking Colber’s statement because I’ve followed Conner’s career from high school, but am doing so facetiously.

  • Rob H

    I don’t recall a lot of people saying Burns would play right away, I think most knew he was raw. The overall point is valid though. I remember some fans of “The U” saying that the coaching staff Burns played for was a trainwreck, and that he would be a player with pro coaching, and he ended up starting by week 6 I think.
    I don’t expect Allen to be a starter this year, but I do think they will find a role for him as the season goes along, and he should be able to play special teams right away.

  • SilverSteel

    He has the will and the body. The rest is up to Lake. Who I do think is a decent coach.

  • SilverSteel

    I know I will ☹️😿☹️

  • SilverSteel

    He’s gonna make the 53. Book it! In fact I predict every pick will make the 53 even Adams. That will mean a huge team shakeout but if not now, when.

    SJohnson, DJohnson, Moates, Fort and some others better come to camp ready for a fight. I haven’t looked forward to a camp like this for awhile.

  • SilverSteel

    Wreck, he did praise him for it weeks ago.

  • SilverSteel

    Exactly why he makes the 53. He does not see the PS.

  • SilverSteel

    Yup

  • WreckIess

    Where?

  • SilverSteel

    On SD. I will try to dig up the archives.