This is part 13 in our position-by-position review of the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers. If you haven’t read the previous installments, please click below:
If you haven’t read Part 1 (offensive tackles), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 2 (guards), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 3 (centers), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 4 (tight ends), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 5 (wide receivers), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 6 (running backs), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 7 (quarterbacks), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 8 (nose tackles), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 9 (defensive ends), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 10 (linebackers), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 11 (linebackers part 2), click here.
If you haven’t read Part 12 (safeties), click here.
Today we look at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ cornerbacks. Despite what you may have heard, 2011 was actually a good year for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ cornerbacks.
The Steelers were the #1 passing defense in the NFL last year. And that was in spite of not getting much pressure on the quarterback due to injuries to James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. So it was the defensive backs who had to step up their game to offset injuries to the rush linebackers.
Let’s take a look at the cornerbacks, starting with…….
Ike has been the best cornerback on the Steelers for quite some time. But despite being the best cornerback on the best defense in the NFL, Ike has never gotten the recognition that he deserves. This is primarily because Ike doesn’t get interceptions like premier cornerbacks are expected to. It’s no secret; Ike can’t catch. But that doesn’t stop him from guarding the opposing team’s best receiver week after week. And Ike usually shuts him down.
Statistically, 2011 didn’t look like a good year for Ike. But numbers can be deceiving. For example, Ike had one of the worst seasons of his career in terms of the number of tackles that he made. But does that mean that he was ineffective, or that quarterbacks have learned to not throw in his direction?
‘Ike only had 2 interceptions in 2011. That’s nothing to write home about, but by Ike’s standards, that’s a pretty good year. In fact, he’s only exceeded it one time in his entire NFL career.
To get a true sense of how Ike played in 2011, let’s look back at the game against the New England Patriots where Ike played man-on-man against Wes Welker. Ike shadowed Welker all day, and he only allowed him 39 receiving yards and no touchdowns. Anytime you hold Wes Welker to 39 years, you’ve had a tremendous day. Ike also held Larry Fitzgerald to 78 yards and no TD’s. And he held A.J. Green to 36 and 87 yards in their two meetings.
I know that Ike let Tim Tebow burn him for a game-winning play in the playoffs. But who expected Tebow to throw the ball the way he did? I’m not excusing Ike, but I don’t think the Steelers’ coaching staff expected, or prepared for Tebow to play the way he did.
So don’t believe what you’ve been reading. Ike is as good as he’s ever been. Just don’t expect him to intercept the ball.
William Gay signed a free agent contract with the Arizona Cardinals this week, so he’s no longer a Steeler. Nevertheless, he was on the squad in 2011, so I have to evaluate his play.
I was very hard on Gay throughout his career. And he deserved it. He got burned early and often during his time with the Steelers. But 2011 was a different story.
Gay won the starting position, and he played well. Whether fans want to admit it or not, Gay was a starting cornerback on the #1 passing defense in the NFL. He obviously played a role in that.
Gay had the highest number of passes defensed and interceptions of his career in 2011. But even more importantly, he had quite a few game-saving plays.
As much as fans may have hated William Gay over the years, you have to admit that he earned his paycheck in 2011.
Like William Gay, Keenan Lewis had his best season in 2011. He got more playing time than he had ever received before, and he logged his best statistical season by far.
But more important than what Keenan Lewis did on the field, was what he didn’t do. He didn’t have the stupid penalties that plagued him during his first two seasons. That’s an important change.
As Keenan Lewis heads into his 4th season with the Steelers, it might seem that he is the obvious guy to replace William Gay. But when asked about replacing Gay, Mike Tomlin mentioned Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown. In fact, he had to be prompted before he mentioned Keenan Lewis. That may be a telling sign.
I like what I saw from Keenan Lewis last year. But he didn’t impress me enough to want to see him as a starter. I’m glad that coach Tomlin is going to give the two rookies a chance to win the position in 2012.
I love Curtis Brown. Last year, when every mock draft was saying that the Steelers should take Texas CB Aaron Williams in the first round, I said that I didn’t want Williams, and that I wanted the Steelers to take his teammate Curtis Brown in the 3rd round. The Steelers obviously heard me, because they did exactly that.
Curtis Brown was a dynamo on special teams. He seemed to make every tackle. And that definitely got Mike Tomlin’s attention.
Unfortunately, Brown injured his knee and was lost for the season. He had surgery in December, and should be ready in time for training camp.
Cortez Allen was the guy who really surprised people in 2011. He was an unknown commodity to most fans, having played at the Citadel.
But Allen worked his way up, and by the end of the season, he was seeing action in the Steelers’ dime packages.
At 6’1″, he’s a big cornerback. Moreover, he has a lot of athleticism. He was raw coming out of college, but I’m extremely excited about what we’re going to see from Cortez Allen in the years to come.
Though listed as a cornerback, Anthony Madison was primarily a special teams player in 2011. He has 1 start in his 6 year NFL career. I don’t think that he’s going to be in the mix for a starting job in 2012.