Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Cortez Allen will make the Steelers look smart in 2013.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis was second in the NFL with 23 passes defended in 2012, but he became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the New Orleans Saints.
The Steelers didn't make much of an attempt to keep Lewis because they were ready to make Allen the starting cornerback opposite Ike Taylor.
When Taylor was lost for the season, early in the Steelers' game at Baltimore in 2012, Allen replaced him and helped the Steelers pull off the upset by breaking up three passes.
With the Steelers fighting for their playoff lives at home against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16, Allen intercepted two passes, broke up three passes and forced a fumble in a losing effort.
That loss rendered the season finale meaningless, but Allen performed like he was playing for a job. He forced two more fumbles and tied his career high with eight combined tackles.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked Allen the 16th-best cornerback in the NFL in 2012 in his B/R NFL 1,000 series. He ranked Allen ahead of both Lewis (34th) and Taylor (23rd).
Look for the 24-year-old Allen, entering his third year in the NFL, to pick up where he left off last season. He already has shown better ball skills than Lewis, who has just one interception in his four-year career.
After forcing a combined 35 turnovers in 2011 and 2012, the Steelers defense could use Allen's hands.