The Pittsburgh Steelers Secondary: Who Is the Odd Man Out?

Nick SignorelliSenior Writer IJune 15, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor defends against a pass to Miami Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers in the NFL's opening 2006 game on September 7, 2006 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

When talking about who could be the odd man out in Pittsburgh, there are some people that can be left out of the conversation from the beginning. 

Troy Polamalu is one player that has no fear of getting a pink slip anytime soon.  He has revolutionized the way the Safety position is played, and will be a fixture in the Steelers secondary for years to come.

Starting corner Ike Taylor is also cemented in at starter on one side of the ball.  Taylor always covers the other team's best receiver, and does a great job at doing it.

After replacing Bryant McFadden during his injuries, William Gay is penciled in to start opposite of Ike Taylor.

Gay did a good enough job for the Steelers to allow McFadden to leave for the Arizona Cardinals.  Barring a training camp let down, Gay will be starting.

This is where the questions start coming into play.

The Steelers used a third and fifth round pick upgrading the position, one free agent was brought in, and Deshea Townsend returns.  It looks to be an open competition for these players.

Keenan Lewis, the Steelers third round pick, is expected to compete for the Nickel and Dime corner positions.

Lewis stands at 6 foot, weighs 208lbs, and has a similar skill set as Ike Taylor.  Lewis is the most likely to win playing time this year of the rookies.

Joe Burnett comes to the Steelers in the fifth round out of the University of Central Florida.  Though smaller than Lewis, at 5'9, 194, Burnett could better be described as BURN-ett due to his blazing speed.

Mike Tomlin is hoping that Burnett can become a kick returner and is hoping that he will eventually be able to win the Nickel position.

Deshea Townsend is a Steeler through and through.  He has played his entire career with the Steelers, being drafted in 1997.

He started behind Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott, only taking over when both were released.

Townsend, now nearing the end of his career, will probably be moved to back-up Safety behind Troy and Ryan Clark.

Keiwan Ratliff is the biggest question mark in this equation.  He was obviously brought in because of depth, but can he be good enough to take playing time away from one of the above mentioned players?

If the Steelers hold true to form, and that is allowing rookies to sit for a year before being thrown into the fire, you can expect the secondary to look something like this:

RCB - Ike Taylor

FS - Ryan Clark

SS - Troy Polamalu

LCB - William Gay

Nickel Back - Keiwan Ratliff

Dime Back - Keenan Lewis

Deshea Townsend would probably be the back-up at every position at Safety, while also being the next corner used in the dime if anyone is injured.

Either way, the Steelers are looking like a team that is building for the future while not losing the present to do so.

It is looking like the Steelers secondary is going to be one of the strongest for years to come.  


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