Keenan Lewis & Cortez Allen Now Likely To Battle For Open Left Cornerback Spot
It is now being confirmed that Pittsburgh Steelers unrestricted free agent cornerback William Gay has indeed signed with the Arizona Cardinals and will not be returning to the Steelers in 2012. Gay started at the left outside cornerback spot for the Steelers in 2012 from week 2 on after Bryant McFadden lost the spot following the week 1 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. When the Steelers would go to their nickel sub-package last year, Gay shifted inside to the nickel corner spot and Keenan Lewis came in as the left corner.
Lewis appears to be the odds on favorite now to replace Gay initially, but second year cornerback Cortez Allen will likely be given every opportunity to win the job. Lewis has more defensive snap experience on his side after seeing the field for just over 400 snaps last season. Allen only saw 60 snaps in total during his rookie year and most of those were in dime or big nickel packages.
Allen very well could be used in a nickel role this year as fellow second year corner Curtis Brown did not see the field on defense in his rookie year. Allen showed promise lining up inside on slot receivers and tight ends, so that would be the likeliest scenario at this point. Should Allen beat out Lewis for the starting left corner spot to start the season, he would still likely kick inside when the Steelers go to their sub-packages.
With Gay officially moving on the Steelers are officially left with 4 corners returning from last year and they very well could draft another one at some point in the draft now and it most likely would happen after the 3rd round. The Steelers could also bring back McFadden on a one-year veteran minimum contract that might be eligible for a qualifying contract that comes with a reduced cap hit. He would provide some experienced depth to the unit and could also contribute on special teams. McFadden was released in the early part of February and has received no attention since being let go.
Also on the offseason roster are Walter McFadden and Antonio Smith, but both appear to be long-shots to make the 53 man roster at this point. The Steelers most certainly will sign a few undrafted coernerbacks for training camp as well. Defensive backs coach Carnell Lake did a great job in his first season last year and the play of Gay, Lewis and Allen is proof of that. Lewis has turned the proverbial corner it seems after appearing to be an underachiever after his first two seasons in Pittsburgh. Allen came to the Steelers very raw out of the Citadel, but his ability to see the field during his rookie season speaks volumes.