Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Free Agents Analysis: CB Keenan Lewis – Unrestricted

The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason continues on and with the 2013 NFL combine starting this week we will continue on with our breakdown of the free agents as we inch closer towards the start of free agency. Next up on the list of unrestricted free agents is cornerback Keenan Lewis.

Player: Keenan Lewis

Position: Cornerback

Experience: 4 Years

Free Agent Status: Unrestricted

2012 Salary Cap Hit: $1,260,000

2012 Season Breakdown: Lewis, a restricted free agent last offseason, finally got a chance to start opposite Ike Taylor in 2012 after William Gay was allowed to leave via free agency and he did not disappoint. Lewis showed his toughness way back in training camp as a played through a shoulder injury that would have given second-year cornerback Cortez Allen a chance to get his reps. Lewis won the job out-right and without questions.

Seeing the field was nothing new for Lewis in 2012 as he played outside in 2011 when the Steelers used their nickel package. There were concerns about Lewis, however, heading into 2012 as he had shown some uneven play the season prior, especially against the run. The Oregon State product answered those concerns last season as he played the run much better than he did the season before.

Coverage wise Lewis failed to record an interception in 2012 but his physical style and ability to break on the ball resulted in him finishing second in the league in passes defensed.

Lewis allowed 10 receptions on 13 targets in the first two games of the season, but quickly put those games behind him. The Week 7 game against the Cincinnati Bengals was perhaps the one that really established him as a starting cornerback in the league as he defensed two passes in that game and prevented touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green when he read the play and stayed true to his cover-3 responsibilities. That one play was a key turning point in the Steelers win.

Lewis was not without faults last season as he still must work on becoming a better tackler moving forward. At times he will go too high or attempt to tackle with his shoulder instead of wrapping up like he should. He also finished the season tied for second on the team in penalties with 8, 5 of which were for pass interference, 2 for holding and 1 for illegal use of the hands. It should be noted, however, that one of those penalties against the New York Giants was a phantom call and after that Week 9 game he wasn\’t flagged for pass interference the rest of the season.

Lewis also needs to become more opportunistic as his lack of interceptions is starting to become troublesome. He has recorded just one so far in his NFL career and has been thrown at more than 160 times.

Free Agency Outlook: Lewis will likely be allowed to test free agency when it begins to establish his market value. The only thing that could possibly keep his value held down is his lack of interceptions and the fact that several teams might perceive him as a system only cornerback. That being said, a few more teams will be switching to a 3-4 defense in 2013 with one of those teams being the Cleveland Browns under the guidance of new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who was the Steelers defensive backs coach when Lewis was drafted. Lewis is far from being the top free agent cornerback on the market this offseason, but I suspect a few teams will kick his tires just the same.

The Steelers obviously want to re-sign Lewis, but they will not get in a bidding war for him. Lewis undoubtedly would like to stay in Pittsburgh with Carnell Lake, who should get a ton of credit for his turnaround. The guaranteed money and structure needed to retain Lewis will be a huge factor in whether or not he is re-signed. If the Steelers can sign him at an average yearly value of under $7 million, I like the chances of him being retained. It only takes one team, however, to overpay for his services, and I think the answer will come by the end of March.

At this point in time I would say that the Steelers have a 65% chance at re-signing him and I hope they do. Perhaps a four-year deal totaling out at around $25 million or so. Keep your fingers crossed.

Other 2012 Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Charlie Batch – Unrestricted Free Agent
Casey Hampton – Unrestricted Free Agent
Plaxico Burress – Unrestricted Free Agent
Larry Foote – Unrestricted Free Agent
Byron Leftwich – Unrestricted Free Agent
Will Allen – Unrestricted Free Agent
Max Starks – Unrestricted Free Agent
Greg Warren – Unrestricted Free Agent
Leonard Pope – Unrestricted Free Agent
Brandon Johnson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Rashard Mendenhall – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ramon Foster – Unrestricted Free Agent
Doug Legursky – Unrestricted Free Agent

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  • I may be alone in this, but I think he is by far our top FA this year and should be the number one priority to get signed, as long as we don’t break the bank.

  • Mike Carroll

    For anyone interested, I have posted an interesting analysis regarding the Steelers current salary cap situation and how it is significantly different than just a few years ago. It’s posted under the “2013 Steelers Salary Cap” page somewhere towards the bottom (First line reads: The Difference Between the 2013 and 2010 Steelers Cap Situation). I would re-post it here, but it is lengthy and belongs on the other page.

  • JT

    I don’t know why you’d think you’re alone. He was a standout for the defense last year. Lake has turned him into a quality player. Regardless of their play on the field, which happened to be mostly below the line this year, everyone also hates Mendy and Wallace.

  • JT

    If the defense on opening day looks like:

    DL: Kiesel-McClendon-Heyward
    LB: J. Jones*-Timmons-Foote-Significantly lighter Woodley
    CB: Taylor-Lewis
    S: Clark-Troy

    I’d be a very happy fan.

    *=I’m betting he falls, and the Steelers take a chance. Sue me.

  • zyzak

    Woodley weighed in right where he should have Source: Mark Koboly Pgh Tribhttp://blog.triblive.com/steel-mill/2012/08/06/butler-woodley-has-to-decide-if-he-wants-to-be-great/

  • westernsteel

    He is by far a priority for the Steelers. This team needs him back.

  • JT

    I don’t care what he should have or even did weigh in at quite frankly. Just like I don’t care how much Ziggy could bench. He could benefit by getting lighter and quicker.

  • I Love what Lake has been able to do with some of these guys. He was always one of my favorites as a player too. Some of us are old enough to remember when he had to switch from his Safety position to the CB position because of injuries. I remember him filling in quite nicely. I think he was a Linebacker in College too…Sign Lewis and our Corners should be solid for years to come.

  • Mostly because backlash against Wallace and Mendy aside, too many people have been focusing on the WR/RB situation and seemingly ignoring the danger on defense.

  • HarryBackside

    Sign Lewis, regardless of who needs to be released to make it happen.

  • Ahmad

    I hope that we can re-sign him and he should be our top off season priority.

  • RMSteeler

    We saw what Ray Horton did with Lewis. Keenan came in with great expectations, but if not for Carnell Lake, he’d be leaving this year anyway with a big bust sign on his back. Carnell Lake is the key, not Lewis. Look at how all the young secondary came around when Lake arrived. Wherever Keenan plays, and I hope it’s with the Steelers, he owes Lake more a percentage as his agent when he signs a contract. Not a huge concern if he leaves. Lake is the key and I believe he can turn a mid/lower round CB or Safety into a future Pro Bowler if he has good, solid material and attitude to work with.

  • Pete

    Even if they drafted Jones, he would not start in his 1st year let alone start the 1st game of the season.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    It was just about this time one year ago when some fans were calling for Lewis to be cut. Or at least not re-signed. He was a bust. Plain and simple. Now he’s our best CB. How did this happen? Did he get some magic Deion Sanders pills? Did he suddenly get bigger, stronger, faster? No, he got an opportunity. He had been developing for 3 years. We as fans just hadn’t seen the evidence until 2012.

    This is a good reminder when spewing opinions about players like: Worilds, Sly, Carter, C. Brown, McClendon. Not saying all of them will be stars but typically the young Steelers will surprise you once they’re given the opportunity to start for an entire 16 game season. Especially on defense. Just remember this come mock draft time when you say we have “nobody” at LB.

    On the other hand, look at our depth at WR and TE. Just sayin’.

  • steeltown

    I know you cant read in to much that players and coaches say, but Lewis says that He loves playing for Coach Lake and credits him for his recent development and also he has already said that the exit meeting went well and that the two sides have openly discussed a new contract {fingers crossed}

    As I mentioned before, IF Ike was a few years younger this wouldnt even be an issue, they would let KLewis walk and have Cortez play opposite Ike, but Ike is not getting any younger, we need as many defensive backs as possible, especially with Troy and Clark also on the back end of their careers. In two years, they all will be gone and Lewis will be the veteran, we need him

  • steeltown

    Totally agree… I think Worilds needs to start this season and Adrian Robinson needs to see more time too. Obviously we can all see the upside to McLendon, he seems to bring energy to that front seven when he’s in there… I’ll reserve judgement on Carter and Brown for now, I think the talent and athletic ability is there…… Sly I am not so sure about