We all thought that the Pittsburgh Steelers top priority this offseason would have to be re-signing unrestricted free agent CB Keenan Lewis. Obviously that wasn’t the case as Lewis signed a five year contract with the New Orleans Saints and Lewis said his farewell to Steelers’ fans on twitter via Dave Bryan of Steelersdepot.com. According to Lewis, the Steelers never offered the free agent CB any kind of contract this offseason which obviously made his decision easier to move on from the team that drafted him. Traditionally, the Steelers do not make a huge splash in free agency because they develop and pay their own free agents. Considering Keenan Lewis finally came into his own in 2012 there was really little to believe that he wouldn’t be in the future plans for the Steelers.
If the Steelers had kept the young CB, they would have had one of the best groups of secondary players in the league with veteran Ike Taylor and Lewis on the outside and Cortez Allen on the inside. Then throw in safeties Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu and developing backups at corner with DeMarcus Van Dyke and Curtis Brown.
Now with Lewis gone, Cortez Allen will be asked to step up and be the starter next to Taylor with the recently signed William Gay as the third corner. Although I really was not thrilled with the signing of Gay when it happened, it’s obvious now why the Steelers made that move. Gay was not good when he was asked to be a starter the first time he was with the Steelers and is better suited to be on the inside. Honestly I remember Gay being burned by any receiver who walked on the field his last season with the team however, I will be rooting for Gay to prove me wrong.
With Ike and Allen starting and Gay on the inside, the Steelers really should not see much of a drop off from their number one pass defense ranking from 2012.
The problem is going to be after the 2013 season when it is a distinct possibility that the Steelers may cut Ike Taylor in continuance of the veteran dump they have gone through the last couple offseasons. I have full faith that Cortez Allen can become a good starter however, who will step up after Ike leaves?
William Gay? We all saw how that worked the first time.
Maybe the team is just hoping that Curtis Brown or DeMarcus Van Dyke can develop in the next season enough to be able to step into a starters role.
Another option would be for the Steelers to draft a CB high in the draft either the upcoming draft or in next years’ draft. The problem with that is the fact that the Steelers have many other needs in this draft and unless they can trade back, there may not be a corner worth taking with the 17th pick. If the team can find a way to trade back then I would believe more that they could take a corner this year.
As far as next years’ draft, when it’s possible that the Steelers could have already cut Taylor, it makes sense for the team to go with a corner in the first round. If only for the fact that the Steelers would need a starter to replace Taylor and the Steelers generally don’t allow any young players to play much let alone start their rookie season.
So while I do believe the Steelers secondary should be fine going into the upcoming season there is a lot of uncertainty after 2013. I do not doubt that the Steelers have a plan in place however, it was still disappointing to see a good young corner in Keenan Lewis leave without any effort from the team to keep him.