After restructuring the contracts of a few current players, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t waist any time in diving into the free agent pool. The Steelers just brought back a familiar face by signing cornerback William Gay to a three-year deal. The six-year veteran played the first five years of his NFL career in Pittsburgh before signing with the Arizona Cardinals for the 2012 season.
With the addition of Gay, what will the Steelers do about cornerback Keenan Lewis?
The performance displayed by Lewis–who is an unrestricted free agent–this past season has made him a potential target for some teams this off-season. Lewis started all 16 games in 2012, and helped Pittsburgh finish the regular season as the top-ranked pass defense in the league. The breakout year by Lewis and his young age, 26, may be the reasons why he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2013.
Another dilemma is whether or not the Steelers will go after a cornerback in the draft if Lewis isn’t re-signed. Looking at their salary cap woes, the chances of Lewis returning are slim. If by some miracle Pittsburgh can scrape up enough cash to pay Lewis, then the cornerback position wouldn’t be an issue for this upcoming draft.
However, assuming that the Steelers don’t re-sign Lewis, Pittsburgh should still make the cornerback position a priority in the draft. The Steelers do have a number of young cornerbacks on the roster, but they are inexperienced. The corners that have experience are getting up there in age, mainly Ike Taylor.
If general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin decide to go after a cornerback this April, I feel that a good, quality cornerback should be taken somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.
The potential departure of Lewis, coupled with an aging defense, makes it seem that the Steelers are somewhat in a rebuilding mode. For the sake of Pittsburgh, I hope that Gay has gained valuable experience from his time Arizona, because the Steelers are going to need everything they can possibly get to contend for the AFC North.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller, or add him to your network on Google