One thing that stuck out to me while charting the Pittsburgh Steelers first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles is that Keenan Lewis is still holding off Cortez Allen for the starting cornerback spot opposite Ike Taylor. In fact, Allen saw just a handful of his snaps outside in place of Taylor once he exited the game. The rest of his snaps came at the nickel spot in the Steelers sub-package.
When Lewis finally exited the game, it was Walter McFadden that took his spot with Allen only coming in to play nickel as Curtis Brown manned the other outside spot.
Lewis has done a great job fighting off not only the hard charging Allen thus far, but also a shoulder injury. After suffering that injury it was thought that he would miss at least a few practices, and quite possibly the first preseason game, but he was right back out there the next day. That has to speak volumes to a coaching staff.
There are still three preseason games to go and this battle is far from over, but until Allen starts getting snaps in the base defense with the starters opposite Taylor in preseason games, the job will remain Lewis\’.
As far as Allen goes, it has been clear now for a couple of weeks that he will be the nickel back to start the season, even if he should wind up taking the spot away from Lewis over the course of the next several weeks. Should that happen, Allen would shift inside when the defense goes into nickel and Lewis would come into game as the outside corner spot just as he did last year when William Gay held the starting spot opposite Taylor.
As far as Brown goes, he continues to only get looks outside and still has some development to do, which was exposed in the form of the two big plays he allowed for touchdowns against the Eagles. Those types of things are going to happen and you have to keep in mind that Brown saw zero playing time last season on defense as a rookie.
The battle for the fifth cornerback spot on the roster appears to be between seventh round pick Terrence Frederick and McFadden, who was signed to a futures contract early in the offseason. The edge likely goes to Frederick right now as he saw most of his snaps Thursday night in the nickel spot, while McFadden only played outside as I mentioned above.
Over the next couple of preseason games these battles will be easy to follow by just looking at our defensive participation charts while rewatching the game.