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Steelers vs. Bengals: It's Keenan Lewis's chance to shine

Keenan Lewis is in a contract year, and his biggest test - and point of leverage - could be his match-up with A.J. Green in Week 16.

Gregory Shamus

Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis spoke of his desire to become a Pro Bowl player in 2012. Certainly a far-fetched goal, but there's reason to applaud that kind of a vision as well as ridicule a player who wasn't even a starter the previous year.

He may very well end up being an alternate to the game after an outstanding season.

More importantly, though, he's positioned himself quite well for an extension this offseason.

Lewis is an unrestricted free agent in 2013, but figures to be the team's top priority this offseason in terms of contracts. He'll almost certainly get an offer from Pittsburgh, but the question of how much will quickly become the compelling story as soon as the season ends.

Lewis has a huge opportunity Sunday to help boost that offer.

With Ike Taylor out the last two games (three if you don't count the two snaps he played against Baltimore in Week 13), Lewis has been asked to handle much of the same responsibility Taylor has. That includes shadowing a team's best receiver in different situations.

It's fair to suggest Lewis will shadow Bengals' wide receiver A.J. Green Sunday, his toughest task to date.

Green is, at worst, one of the best all-around receivers in the NFL. He could be the best. With 85 catches, 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games, Taylor was one of the few who even limited him this year. In Week 7, Green had a touchdown, but that was his only catch - and it was the only game in which he was held to less than three catches.

Asking Lewis, as well as the entire Steelers defense, to put that kind of lockdown performance on Green is asking for quite a bit.

But if Lewis is able to do that, asking for quite a bit is exactly what he'll do this offseason.