It has now been confirmed by two beat writers who cover the New Orleans Saints that veteran cornerback Keenan Lewis will have a free agent visit Tuesday night with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While Lewis signing a contract with the Steelers is not imminent at this point, you can bet the team will thoroughly examine his previously injured hip in order to see if he’s healthy enough to resume his NFL playing career right where it started in 2009. Should the two sides ultimately come to some sort of an agreement, signing Lewis could wind up being a smart move as long as the veteran is able to regain his previous playing form.
So, where would a healthy Lewis best fit with the Steelers in their secondary?
The obvious fit for Lewis would be on the outside in both the base and sub package personnel groupings and likely on the left side of defense. However, such a move could potentially result in Ross Cockrell going to the bench and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Signing a healthy and able Lewis would also give the Steelers a few different options when it comes to which player will man the slot nickel cornerback position. If they think rookie safety Sean Davis is capable of playing that position, then veteran cornerback William Gay can remain on the outside. If, however, the Steelers coaches believe that Davis needs more grooming during his rookie season, then Gay can move inside to the nickel cornerback position and Cockrell can come off the bench to man the other outside spot opposite Lewis.
Obviously, Lewis’ future success wherever he might land is tied to his health and specifically his hip. Last season, Lewis only played a total of 106 snaps in six different games before finally being placed on the Saints Reserve/Injured list in late November. He’s also now 30 years of age.
As long as Lewis signs on the cheap, there really isn’t much risk involved in bringing him back to Pittsburgh and if he can regain close to the same form that he once had that led to him signing a five-year, $26.3 million free agent contract with the Saints in 2013, then the Steelers secondary should be instantly better than the one they originally intended to field this upcoming season. It would also give rookie cornerback Artie Burns plenty of time to develop slowly in the process.
Tuesday morning reports indicate that Lewis potentially has more suitors than just the Steelers, so it will be interesting to see what comes of his Tuesday night visit to Pittsburgh. Lewis indicated recently that he still might need at least two weeks of rehab before being ready to play, so if he winds up signing with the Steelers there’s a chance he could be ready to play some in the team’s regular season road opener against the Washington Redskins.