A player who looked like the future of the franchise last season, will be playing for someone else this year. Is it because his original team couldn't afford him, he didn't want to be there or the team just didn't need him?
While the signings of Mike Wallace, Rashard Mendenhall and Keenan Lewis didn't exactly take the Pittsburgh Steelers by surprise, it is a bit shocking how much confidence Lewis' exit proves the team has in their roster as it stands without him.
According to Lewis' Facebook account, the Steelers did not even make him an offer. Perhaps this is a bit of spin on his behalf, although he could be telling the truth; either way, considering the size of the contract which lured him away from Pittsburgh, the fact the team did not really make a push to compete for his services only ignited curiosity surrounding the mental health of the team's front office executives.
The signing of one-time Steeler William Gay only made the situation curiouser and curiouser.
Perhaps the team was more concerned with their future cap concerns, or maybe Lewis just wanted to return to his homeland once the option became available; but considering the apparent lack of effort on the Steelers behalf, the team must feel pretty confident in what they already have.
Cortez Allen, the fourth-round pick in 2011 from the Citadel, is assumed to be taking over the starting outside spot opposite of tenured-veteran Ike Taylor. For now, Gay is expected to be an immediate relief to the nickel duties which will be vacated by the promoted Allen. While the Gay signing left many scratching their heads, he gave the team exactly what they needed - one more year to develop their young talent.
Last year, when Taylor broke his ankle, youngsters Curtis Brown, Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke were forced into action. Their defensive inexperience was exploited as the team stumbled down the final stretch of the 2012 season, although each showed flashes of future potential. Unfortunately for Dick LeBeau and Carnell Lake, Allen's imminent promotion meant these young players would be forced into more prominent roles immediately.
Gay's signing in no way guarantees him a spot on the opening day roster in 2013, but he does give the team an experienced buffer between the young projects and necessity. Should any of the young trio prove they have learned and are progressing, they could beat Gay out in camp for nickel, dime or even a roster spot. The Steelers also have other CBs on the off-season roster in Justin King and Isaiah Green, and could yet take another in the upcoming NFL draft.
As the signing of Ramon Foster followed by the release of Willie Colon proves, the team will take any action necessary but only with a contingency plan in place. By this theory, the team must feel the plan is already in place in the secondary.
Only time will tell if the Steelers let their future defensive security walk out the door to New Orleans, or if 2013 was the year the Steelers new secondary broke out of obscurity and mediocrity.