When the Pittsburgh Steelers have a disappointing season, there are always differing opinions on the cause. Was it the offense? Was it the defense? All great questions that fans continually ask, while complimenting them with what can be done to get the team back on top.
Through all of that, one player did show up and raise his value to the Steelers moving forward and may be their most important unrestricted free agent. Cornerback Keenan Lewis rose from the depth chart and entrenched himself as possibly the Steelers best cornerback.
Yes, Ike Taylor is tremendous, and still has some tread left on the tires, but, Lewis proved he is possibly ready to step into that role. Unlike his high school teammate Mike Wallace, Lewis signed his $1.26 million tender last offseason and reported to camp ready to roll and roll he did. In fact, he played so well that he may have priced himself out of Pittsburgh as he enters the unrestricted free agent field as one of the top available cornerbacks in the NFL.
However, the Steelers have always found a way at keeping the talent that they want, and the franchise tender that once may have had Wallaces’ name on it, may end up going to his childhood buddy. Yes, the Steelers may lack depth at both positions wide receiver and cornerback, but they could ill-afford to lose Lewis, as it was clear at the end of the season, that even with a lack of depth the team was less prepared in the secondary when Taylor, Lewis and slot-corner Cortez Allen were banged up.
The 27-year old cornerback has the skill-set to flourish in the Steelers system. When they couple that with the development of Allen, the players could give the Steelers a solid starting tandem into the future once Taylor (33) starts to slow-down.
Of course, general manager Kevin Colbert may have to pull a rabbit out of his hat to keep Lewis, and he likely will. Even if they have to break the bank with the franchise tag, one thing is certain; unlike his former high school teammate, Lewis earned this chance and this contract and more importantly, seems to have a desire to stay in Pittsburgh. He is definitely priority one heading into the offseason.
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