The big talk heading into training camp this year for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year was whether or not Keenan Lewis would be able to hold off Cortez Allen for the starting job opposite Ike Taylor.
Both corners played well in the preseason with Lewis starting opposite Taylor in all four of the exhibition games. Even though it is pretty obvious that Lewis has the starting job to start the season in Denver, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday during his press conference if Lewis had earned the job.
“He\’s earned a spot,” said Tomlin. “I don\’t anoint people in terms of jobs or positions, I\’ll let you guys do that. I think he\’s done a nice job here in this preseason at working and playing good sound technical football and that needs to continue.”
When asked if this is the best that he has seen out of the fourth year cornerback since he was drafted back in 2009, Tomlin said, “It is, but quite frankly we expect it to be. He\’s no longer a young guy. He\’s no longer new to our system of football, or our football team, so we expect a hard worker such as himself to continue to take off from a playing standpoint, and he has.”
Tomlin was also asked to characterize Allen in addition and he did so with a few short sentences. “He\’s another young man that\’s grown by leaps and bounds. He still has room for growth.”
While Allen has indeed played well, so too has Lewis, who has had some ups and downs during his early time in Pittsburgh, which included him getting put in the proverbial Tomlin dog house after the Steelers third preseason game against the Denver Broncos in 2010. After being benched for poor play, that included Lewis picking up two personal foul penalties, he punched a sign that was encased in glass on the way to the locker-room following the loss.
The hiring of Carnell Lake as the defensive backs in 2011 seems to have played a big role in the turnaround of the Oregon State product, who predicted this offseason that he would make the Pro Bowl this year. “Watch out,” Lewis said this offseason, “this is going to be a big year right here.”
Tomlin made it clear on Tuesday that Lewis has earned the starting spot for now. Now it is up to Lewis to keep it. He will be tested right out of the chute Sunday night in Denver as quarterback Peyton Manning will certainly be looking to attack his side of the field. Should Lewis pass that test with flying colors, the spot opposite Taylor will continue to be his. If he doesn\’t, then Tomlin might consider letting Allen take a turn at the spot.