On Thursday we found out that Pittsburgh Steelers unrestricted free agent cornerback Keenan Lewis will not be returning in 2013 after he signed a five year contract with the New Orleans Saints. When you look at the history of the Steelers under general manager Kevin Colbert, it\’s not too surprising that Lewis did not receive a second contract.
As I pointed out in my recent post about using restricted free agency as a filtering system, the Steelers have only given second multi-year contracts to 10 of their 80 draft picks selected from the third round and later dating back to the 2000 draft. Those 10 players are Antonio Brown, Willie Colon, Trai Essex, Chris Kemoeatu, Max Starks, Ike Taylor, Larry Foote, Verron Haynes, Brett Keisel and Chukky Okobi.
How does this compare to the rest of the league over that span of time? I don\’t know, as it would take some serious research to dig that kind of information up. I do find it interesting, however, that five of those ten players are offensive lineman and only one of those ten a wide receiver.
The Lewis situation, now that we know the contract details, is a bit curious, as the Steelers certainly could have fit that contract into this year, and next for that matter, from a salary cap standpoint. We don\’t know the thinking of the front office, however. Perhaps they deem Cortez Allen a much better prospect moving forward, but even so, Ike Taylor only has one more left in him, one would think. Signing Lewis would have given them time to get past him and groom another young cornerback behind him. Heading into 2011, however, you would have never dreamed Lewis would be getting the kind of contract that he received from the Saints.
Sure, Curtis Brown could certainly start to turn the corner in his third year, the way Lewis did in his, but his contract is up after the 2014 season. It\’s hard to imagine that he will become the 11th player drafted after round three to receive a second multi-year contract.
William Gay doesn\’t figure to see the end of his new three-year deal while Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke are still relatively unknown commodities that look like backups at best right now.
Considering the time that takes to get a young cornerback up to speed on defense, I think it is safe to say that the Steelers will not be drafting one in the first two rounds in the upcoming draft. Heck, they might not even draft one at all.
Judging by the Steelers history, they are comfortable in turning over the bottom three quarters of the roster every three or four years. As far as where the money goes, the quarterback and tight end get it on offense, while the rest gets scattered throughout the defense.
With Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace and Ryan Mundy all gone this off-season via free agency, the Steelers 2008 draft class is now all gone and only Ziggy Hood and David Johnson remain from the 2009 class.
With the older players slowly starting to drop off one by one, what remains of the last three draft classes, 17 players by the way, will be counted on heavily starting in 2014. Joining them on defense is LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds, both of whom must perform in 2013 if the Steelers want to have a chance at competing for a championship.
All of the above looks unorthodox when you draw it out, but the fact of the matter is that the Steelers went to the Super Bowl two times in the last five seasons. It was an older team, however. At least they still have a quarterback and in this day and age of the game, that gives you a fighting chance year in and year out by itself.
Is this upcoming draft any more important than the previous three or four? I think that every year is, but they certainly cant miss like they did in 2008. Mendenhall seved his purpose, the rest of the picks were quite awful.