For all their problems through four games this season, from injuries to lack of production to their inability to stop the run, the Steelers' traditional Achilles' heel is growing stronger.
Cornerback has quietly developed into a competent position. It also will see the first definitive change in starters on the team this season.
Bryant McFadden, who had resumed his starting role at left cornerback after the Steelers got him back in a trade from Arizona last year, has apparently dropped from starter to No. 4 cornerback.
Although McFadden has practiced the past three weeks and his hamstring injury has healed, William Gay will make his fourth start at left cornerback Sunday. When they move to the dime defense, it will be Keenan Lewis again joining the secondary as the third cornerback and not McFadden.
Coach Mike Tomlin made it pretty clear Tuesday when asked if McFadden will return to his starting job.
"I like what's going on with some of the men," Tomlin answered.
The Steelers have the top pass defense in the NFL, as measured by their league-low 157.5 yards passing allowed per game. One reason they may be up there in pass defense is because they are way down there in run defense at No. 22.
Yet coordinator Dick LeBeau talks highly of the job Gay and Lewis have done on the other side of the phenomenal play of cornerback Ike Taylor, who has allowed about half a dozen pass completions over him, none significant.
"They've done real well, obviously, our pass numbers reflect they've done a good job," LeBeau said.
"We have to get more interceptions, we're not turning the ball over enough and that includes getting some fumbles and some picks."
The Steelers are in the unique position of having the top pass defense and being the only team in the NFL without an interception. They have one turnover, James Harrison's sack/fumble that led to Troy Polamalu's 16-yard touchdown return against the Colts.
Gay has been with the Steelers five seasons and he started for them in 2009 after McFadden fled to Arizona as a free agent. They reacquired McFadden in a trade and he won his job back last season.
The intrigue here is the improvement of Lewis. He seemed lost at times in his first two seasons after the Steelers drafted him in the third round in 2009. He has ideal size at 6 feet, 208 pounds, good speed and was a four-time Academic All-Pac 10 at Oregon State. He made a nice play on Texans wide receiver Jacoby Jones to deflect a deep pass away on third down in the fourth quarter Sunday to force a punt that gave the offense one last chance to tie it from midfield.
"The older you get, you have to grow at this position," Lewis said. "Rarely do you find too many college corners to come in and be starters right away. I just sat back and learned."
Said LeBeau: "We drafted him fairly early so we always had high hopes for him in terms of athleticism and the ability to see the ball and play the ball. He's coming on really well right now. I think it's all in front of him now."