CB Keenan Lewis out to prove his worth

LATROBE, Pa. -- At his best, cornerback Keenan Lewis says he can be a "miniature-Ike Taylor" for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season.

If that is the case, Pittsburgh's cornerback position isn't as thin as people think.

Opposite fellow corner Bryant McFadden, Lewis opened the first two days of Steelers training camp with the No. 1 defense. Lewis is gaining valuable experience this weekend, while holding the seat warm for Taylor, who signed a four-year contract but cannot practice until next week.

Still, this is a good opportunity for Lewis to prove his worth to the coaching staff and potentially earn a role as a nickel corner after two rocky seasons in Pittsburgh. Lewis is getting the first shot in what should be a deep competition with young teammates Crezdon Butler and rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen.

"It feels good and it shows that I've learned my playbook now," Lewis said after practice Saturday. "I feel more experienced. It's my third year, and I'm just trying to do the best that I can to show all these fans who I really am."

Lewis has always been a natural athlete. The former third-round pick has good size and feet -- two things the Steelers covet -- but he hasn't been able to put it together.

Last year Lewis spent the season in coach Mike Tomlin's doghouse after a poor preseason game against the Denver Broncos. After the game, Lewis showed immaturity in the locker room by punching and shattering glass with is hand, which upset the organization.

Lewis said he's watch the tape of that Denver game plenty of times to learn from those mistakes. He also admits one of the biggest keys this season is to get tougher mentally.

"Last year taught me how to keep a cool head when facing adversity," Lewis said. "When people feel down on you, you can't get down on yourself. You have to keep going. No matter what the situation is, you have to keep getting better everyday."

Here are some additional notes from Steelers camp:

  • In addition to Plaxico Burress, the Steelers also met with free-agent tight end Daniel Graham on Saturday. Former backup tight end Matt Spaeth signed with the Chicago Bears, which leaves a spot open as the No. 2 tight end. Tomlin described both as "great meetings."

  • Despite the lockout, Pittsburgh's passing offense looks sharp early. Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and the rest of the receiving corps made several nice catches. Even running back Rashard Mendenhall got into the act with a couple nice grabs out of the backfield.

  • Free-agent running back John Clay has really good size, but it's hard to evaluate him without contact. I'm looking forward to seeing him run in pads.

  • Speaking of which, Sunday will be the first full-contract practice of training camp, which Tomlin was very excited about. "It's football," Tomlin said. "We're going to come out with pads on and we're going to play football."