The Cleveland Browns experienced challenges in their secondary on Sunday, enough so that Pittsburgh Steelers backup Mason Rudolph was able to throw for more than 300 yards, the first time Rudolph has had a 300-yard game in nine career starts.
In response, the Browns signed former Steelers draft pick Brian Allen off the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad and added him to the 53-man roster.
No doubt Cleveland hopes it doesn’t have to use Allen in the secondary against the Steelers during Sunday’s AFC Wild Card game. At the moment, Cleveland’s starting left cornerback (Denzel Ward) and backup left cornerback (Kevin Johnson) are on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list, though both are expected to come off prior to Sunday.
The Browns are also expected to get other defenders back from the Reserve/COVID-19 list between now and then, including safety Andrew Sendejo and linebacker B.J. Goodson.
Brian Allen a Steelers Draft Pick in 2017
Allen, 27, was a fifth-round pick of the Steelers in 2017 (No. 173 overall), which turned out to be one of the best draft classes in the NFL that year, having produced OLB T.J. Watt, WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, RB James Conner and QB Josh Dobbs in the first four rounds.
Allen—6-foot-3 and 200 pounds—played collegiately for the Utah Utes. He appeared in 16 games for the Steelers in 2017-18, playing exclusively on special teams. He has since spent time with the Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills & San Francisco 49ers, and started one game for the 49ers this season. Allen has recorded six career tackles (four solo).
Cincinnati added Allen to its practice squad in early November, and he was on Cincy’s Reserve/COVID-19 list between December 21 and January 1.
Browns DE Olivier Vernon Suffered a Ruptured Achilles
One defender the Browns will definitely be without against the Steelers on Sunday is starting defensive end Olivier Vernon, who ruptured his Achilles during the fourth quarter of yesterday’s game and needs season-ending surgery.
Vernon, 30, was having one of the best seasons of his nine-year NFL career. He was a third-round selection of the Miami Dolphins in the 2012 NFL draft and played four seasons for the Dolphins before moving on to the New York Giants for three years.
He has been with the Browns for the last two years, and had 36 tackles (24 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits and nine sacks this season before getting hurt. He also had three passes defensed, a forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Without Vernon, the Browns will have to rely more on Adrian Clayborn and Porter Gustin, the former a 10-year veteran who won a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in 2018.
The Browns suffered one other notable injury versus the Steelers yesterday. Wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones is now in concussion protocol after absorbing a crushing blow from Steelers backup safety Sean Davis, who made his first start of the year yesterday.
Davis, a former second-round pick of the Steelers in 2016, came back to Pittsburgh in September after he failed to make Washington’s 53-man roster in the wake of signing a one-year, $5 million contract in free agency.