Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Possibility Of Keeping Keenan Lewis; Roethlisberger Takes Control Of Team

This is arguably the most critical offseason the Pittsburgh Steelers may have faced under general manager Kevin Colbert. Several contract/Salary Cap issues, free agent issues, age issues and questions of leadership. How things are handled in the coming weeks will determine the direction of the team.

One of those issues that will be coming to a head as of March 12th centers around starting left cornerback Keenan Lewis. Lewis started all 16 games last season and showed that he has the ability to be a top-level cornerback in the league. His taking on the opponent's top receiver after right cornerback Ike Taylor broke his right ankle in Week 13, helped to prove that.

Lewis' 2011 campaign was heady enough to allow the coaches to part ways with veterans Bryant McFadden and William Gay. He then shined last season as a starter for the Steelers, recording 71 tackles, forcing a fumble and was second amongst cornerbacks with 23 passed defended. A season that garnered the attention of his peers as well:

This helps to make the unrestricted free agent highly sought after if and when he's allowed to test the free agency waters. Lewis has said, though, that he's "hoping" to be back with the Steelers after excelling last season, per Gerry Dulac, who also said last month that the team "almost certainly" plans to re-sign the 26-year old four-year pro.

What are the possible numbers of Lewis' eventual contract? Taking some data from last season's top free agent cornerbacks and projections from this offseason and we can formulate an idea.

Since Richard Sherman said that Lewis was one of the top three cornerbacks this season, let's look at the top three 2012 free agency CB signings:

Lardarius Webb (Ravens) - six years, $52.74 million, $10 million signing bonus;

Cortland Finnegan (Rams) - five years, $50 million, $27 million guaranteed, $5 million signing bonus;

Brandon Carr (Cowboys) - five years, $50 million, $25.5 million guaranteed, $10 million signing bonus.

If we only go by those numbers, an asking price of five years, $50 million and a $10 million signing bonus wouldn't be out of the question. Fortunately, a rich CB free agent market headed by names like Sean Smith, Charles Woodson, Aqib Talib and Derek Cox keeps Lewis' price down and allows us to surmise a contract possibly anywhere from $35 to $45 million. -

The recently increased salary cap for the upcoming season, which will add an extra $2.4 million per team taking it to $123 million, aids the Steelers in being able to work a deal with impending free agent.

Does this solidify the chances of signing Lewis, though. No. As Colbert stated after the season ended, all free agents would be allowed to test the waters. With Lewis gaining the attention he has, let's hope those waters don't flow out off the three rivers.


Locker room schism? What locker room schism? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger took control of the situation Thursday and told us that no disunity exists with the team.

"For anybody to say there are locker room issues or leadership issues are completely off base. I believe that's the frustration. I believe that it's frustration of last year, I honestly do," the 31-year old QB said.

"Obviously, last year was frustrating for all of us, and when you're frustrated and the season doesn't go the way you want it to and things don't go the way you want them to, things are said. I know all too well, after the Dallas game I was frustrated and said some things."

He's correct there. Is this team in "total disarray" if they take care of business against the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns or the very Cowboys Big Ben mentioned? Take care of just two of those and they would've been a 10-6 team in the playoffs.

Big Ben continued, saying "The important thing to know is, there are no issues in our locker room. There are no issues with LaMarr. There are no issues on our team.

"The big thing for us is to move forward. Last year was last year, it was 8-8. We're not happy about it. There are frustrations, but you know what? We're done with it. We're moving forward and we're moving into this year...with whoever's here, we're looking to move forward. And we know Woodley's going to be here and we know Woodley's going to be ready to go as we all are going to be."

Ok, Ben, Sr. just proved himself the leader of this team. -


TIDBITS: As a related point in the Keenan Lewis part of the discussion, the aforementioned William Gay was released from the Arizona Cardinals on Friday. and that release caused some to question whether the Steelers may bring him back to add depth behind Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. Most likely not.

Gay was an unrestricted free agent last offseason and looked to greener pastures when he signed a two-year, $4.9 million contract with the Cardinals. Their defensive coordinator last season was former Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton, who is now the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.

Though anything is possible with him knowing the Steelers coaches and system, the more likely landing spot for Gay would be the Browns.


As a non-related point to the Big Ben part of the discussion, quarterback Charlie Batch evidently doesn't listen to LL Cool J, because he said he wants to "come back."

"My plan is to come back, and I haven't heard anything differently from the organization," Uncle Charlie said. "And I think when you leave out of there at the end-of-the-year meetings, you know one way or the other. And they didn't tell me that they didn't want me back. So I think that's a good sign."

So James Todd was right, don't call it a comeback. You've been here for years. And since the Steelers only have two QBs under contract, Big Ben and recent signee John Parker Wilson, Uncle Charlie might just might be on the sidelines again as the QB coach-in-waiting.

Will the team bring Jerrod Johnson and Byron Leftwich back to camp to compete for spots also? They had four QBs last season before Johnson was finally let go. The same could happen this summer. Just which four, though?