View Full Version : Youth may finally be served

12-08-2009, 06:55 AM
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Youth may finally be served
December 7th, 2009

It looks like we will get our first extended look at rookie cornerbacks Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis Thursday night in Cleveland.

And the two will receive significant playing time for the first time this season, only because the Steelers are desperate.

William Gay is hurt, and the Steelers haven’t been able to cover for his shortcomings when the third-year cornerback is healthy and strong safety Troy Polamalu is not healthy (i.e. sidelined by an injury). Ike Taylor, meanwhile, is in the midst of his worst stretch since Bill Cowher benched the seventh-year veteran in 2006.

Not that we’re likely to see coach Mike Tomlin start a pair of rookie cornerbacks in Cleveland even if it is the Browns we’re talking about.

But his assertion at his weekly news conference that the Steelers want to see what Burnett and Lewis can do is a refreshing one. And maybe it is one that will not only lead to a quick fix but also a change or at least tweak in organizational philosophy.

Director of football operations Kevin Colbert’s approach to the draft is to take players with an eye toward two years down the road. Tomlin, meanwhile, is on record as saying that players make the most improvement from their first year to their second one.

Take those philosophies and it is easy to see why the Steelers have not relied much on rookies since Tomlin took over as head coach, though injuries contributed to the team bringing along first-round picks Lawrence Timmons (2007) and Rashard Mendenhall (2008) slowly.

Had the Steelers been more open to expecting more out of their rookies maybe they would have kept Anthony Madison, their best special-teams player in 2008, instead of Keiwan Ratliff when final cuts were made in early September.

Ratliff is no longer with the team while Madison is back with the Steelers. And it worth asking why they needed Ratliff when they have two young talents at cornerback in Burnett and Lewis?

Also, the Steelers can attest as well as anybody the impact that rookies are capable of making.

Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy burned them for 128 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning one, last Sunday. The Vikings’ Percy Harvin and the Bengals’ Bernard Scott each returned kickoffs for touchdowns against the Steelers earlier this season.

Johnny Knox caught six passes for 70 yards and scored the game-tying touchdown for the Bears against the Steelers in September. In the season opener, Kenny Britt’s 57-yard reception set up the Titans’ only touchdown at Heinz Field.

Harvin and Britt were first-round picks last April. But Murphy, Knox and Scott were all taken no earlier than the fourth round, and Knox and Scott are small-school products.

The point to all of this is maybe the Steelers shouldn’t be so hesitant to depend on first-year players, though it is worth noting they have gotten a significant return from Mike Wallace, their rookie wide receiver.

Rookies across the NFL have made substantial contributions at most if not all positions and perhaps it's time for the Steelers to take notice of that.

Not that they should abandon their philosophy of erring on the side of caution when it comes to playing rookies; it has largely been a good one for them.

But they also need to recognize that they don’t need to essentially redshirt most of their rookies -– and that in some of those players’ cases the future is now.

We may soon find out if that is the case with Burnett and Lewis.

12-08-2009, 08:29 PM
I can't wait to see how Joe Burnett does starting for William Gay. It will also be nice to see how Keenan Lewis does in certain packages defensively. it's time to see if these 2 can handle the CB spot or if we need to address it again in the 2010 draft. IMO Lewis and Burnett will be very solid CBs for us.

12-08-2009, 08:37 PM
Last Sunday our secondary was pretty bad, i hope these young men can do good. (at least better than we did last week).

12-08-2009, 09:39 PM
Last Sunday our secondary was pretty bad, i hope these young men can do good. (at least better than we did last week).

Well it can't be any worse than what we have witnessed the past 4 weeks.

12-08-2009, 10:12 PM
some info

joe burnett-


Positives: Confident and a leader on the field. ... Stronger than you'd expect for his size. ... Good vertical, able to make a play on jump balls. ... Solid hands for the interception and is elusive enough to make yardage after the catch. ... Good recovery and closing speed -- is never out of a play. ... Nice hand-eye coordination to break up passes. ... Quality kickoff and punt returner because he has solid hands, good vision and patience, hits the open lane hard, makes the first man miss and runs through arm tackles.

Negatives: A bit small and light to handle larger NFL receivers, although he has a good lower-body build. ... Lacks elite top-end speed. ... Not particularly strong on the line and struggles to get off blocks. ... Brings pressure as a blitzer but does not finish off the quarterback. ... Usually plays off the receiver in order to get cushion on deep routes. ... More of a cut tackler, does not wrap up often enough. ... Probably best in a zone system with help over the top. ... Is not a typical pro punt returner with great speed and quickness.

keenan lewis-


Positives: Rare height for the position. ... Aggressive at the line of scrimmage. ... At his best in press coverage where he can get his long arms on the receiver and disrupt the timing of the passing game. ... Good foot quickness to turn and run with the receiver. ... Plants, drives and closes quickly. ... Gets his hands on lot of passes. ... Has the experience and intelligence to operate well in zone coverage. ... Enjoyed a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl.

Negatives: Questionable deep speed. ... Lacks the soft hands for the interception. ... Misjudges passes and allows too many to get into his chest. ... Generally a reliable open-field tackler, but likes to duck his head and swipe, leading to some missed tackles. ... Can get a bit grabby downfield, which will lead to pass interference calls at the next level. ... Willing in run support, but was protected by a physical and experienced front seven, and prefers to stand around the pile, rather than throw his body into it.

El-Gonzo Jackson
12-08-2009, 11:30 PM
Burnett plays off man well and has quckness to break on things in front of him. I think he is a solid cover 2 type CB that could benefit from Safety help over top, but is generally a good fit for the Steelers.

Lewis plays better in press man coverage and needed to learn how to play off man more in the NFL like the Steelers do.

I really have high hopes, but am honestly a bit worried about rookies playing solid their 1st year. Said it on draft day that the 2010 CB rotation will look like Taylor, Gay, Lewis, Burnett and probably a vet like Ratliff or Roy Lewis. Hope they perform well......after all it is the Browns.

tony hipchest
12-09-2009, 01:01 AM
Hope they perform well......after all it is the Browns.which means brian robiskie will have a career day of 3 rec/26 yds and a td. :doh: