When Brian Allen said the most important things for him to do this offseason was to get quicker and faster, the question had to be expected.
How do you accomplish that?
Allen laughed, knowing saying getting quicker and faster is easy to say, but not necessarily the easiest thing to do.
"I went back to California and worked with my trainer," said Allen. "Work on getting in and out of breaks faster. A lot of band work, resistance work, jump rope work. Things to get my lower body stronger and keep my pad level down.
"I need to work on my strengths, my physical side. Just getting quicker and faster. Doing the things that set me apart. Show my skill set that is different than the other guys we have."
Allen, who at 6-3, 215 pounds, is the tallest of all of the Steelers cornerbacks. And because of that he does have a different skill set than players like Joe Haden (5-11, 195).
"Compare me to Joe. He is a shorter guy, he can move quicker in spaces just because he has a lower center of gravity compared to me," said Allen. "Me, I am more of a physical player. 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."
It's his physical style of play that makes it necessary for him to work on that speed, quickness and getting faster. NFL officials are calling things tighter these day, and physical corners are feeling the heat.
"For a guy like me that is tough, that is why I want to work on getting faster with my feet," said Allen. "You see the calls that are being made, with defensive backs putting their hands on receivers, so it's harder to cover. Little things like that to help improve my game so those calls aren't called and my skill set is where it needs to be.
"It's tough, but at the end of the day we still have to go out and play. If they call it, they call it. You can't go out there and change your game because the ref is making that call. If you go out there and they call it, you make the adjustment on the fly. But you can't completely transform your game because it will take you out of your comfort zone. You can improve it, like I am going to work on with speed, but you can't change it. You have to continue to play. If the calls are made, they are made."
Allen is coming off an up and down year for him. He opened the 2018 season on the practice squad, and then went on the roller coaster ride of being active-inactive throughout the rest of the year, playing in only six games. But he used it all to his advantage, making it all a learning experience that can do nothing but help him moving forward.
"I am seeing growth every year," said Allen. "Everyone knows my story as far as when I started playing defense so late. Going up against our receivers in practice, all the guys on offense, is really helping my game improve. Learning from vets like Joe, giving me more knowledge is helping my game grow a lot. I am hoping to use that knowledge and grow into next year.
"That first year coming from the college game to the NFL is two totally different games. A lot of the coverages are the same, but you have checks here, and checks there. Now that I finished my second season, I have it down I can learn it with ease because everything is pretty much the same."