Pittsburgh Steelers fourth-year cornerback Keenan Lewis set a lofty season goal for himself back in late May. “Pro Bowl,” Lewis predicted at the time. “Watch out, this is going to be a big year right here.”
Eight games into the 2012 season the cornerback that looked as if he would never turn the proverbial corner is indeed having a big year. Is it Pro Bowl worthy? Being as cornerbacks usually get judged by interceptions, likely not, but it still isn\’t totally out of the question, especially if he should start adding a few over picks over the course of the second half of the season.
In the Sunday win over the New York Giants Lewis added three more passes defensed to his season total which now gives him 15. While that stat is in the eye of the beholder, and is certainly subjective, he has been around the football. Sure, he was flagged twice in the win Sunday for pass interference, but if you saw the game you would agree that one of them was a phantom call. The other was just bad technique as he failed to get his head around in tight coverage.
While many might consider the passes defensed enough reason to celebrate, Lewis has also been pretty sure handed in the tackling department in addition. Through the first half of season he has 31 combined tackles, which ranks him fourth on the team behind Larry Foote, Ryan Clark, and Lawrence Timmons. These tackles aren\’t only happening in the passing game either as he has made several against the run and near the line of scrimmage.
The Oregon State product also has forced one fumble to boot.
Perhaps the signature play for Lewis this season came against the Cincinnati Bengals a few weeks ago as he stayed true to his responsibilities in a cover-3 look and drifted back to provide underneath coverage help to fellow cornerback Ike Taylor on a deep pass to the end zone that was intended for wide receiver A.J. Green. Lewis leaped to bat the ball away at that last moment, and not only did he perhaps save a touchdown, it served as a huge turning point in the game. A game the Steelers went on to win.
The most important thing right now moving forward is that Lewis is not only gaining experience, but confidence as well. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau spoke about this very thing last week during his talk with the media.
“I just think it is his experience,” said LeBeau, when asked what area that he thought Lewis has improved in the most over the course of his career. “He’s getting a lot of playing time now. This is his second year of playing a lot and playing all the time now. He should continue to grow in the next few years.”
Can Lewis grow into a Pro Bowl cornerback? He certainly is on his way this season, but so far the prediction that he made about it being a big year for him is right on track. A big year in a contract year at that.