PITTSBURGH – The Steelers completed their Pro Bowl voting this week as they continued to prepare for Sunday’s critical game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
For cornerback Keenan Lewis, the voting might have come a week too early.
If Lewis plays the way he thinks he can for the Steelers (7-7) Sunday against the Bengals (8-6) at Heinz Field, he might prove he belongs among the best in the AFC. How? By keeping Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green in check.
The Steelers need to win their final two games to make the playoffs, and Lewis figures he’ll play a large role in them getting to the postseason if that happens.
“There’s really no slowing him down,” said Lewis. “I’ve got to go home and watch tape. I told Mike (Wallace), ‘Don’t come to my house this week.’ I’ll watch a lot of tape on him, see the things he likes and things he dislikes and try to go from there.”
With Ike Taylor out for the third consecutive week with a hairline fracture in his ankle, Lewis said he has the task of lining up opposite Green, who has 85 receptions for 1,208 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Lewis was limited in practice Wednesday with a hip injury suffered last week in a 27-24 overtime loss at Dallas. He sat out practice Thursday after slightly twisting his knee in practice Wednesday as he prepares for his toughest assignment of the season.
“I’m good,” Lewis said. “I’m still playing. I’ll be ready to go on Sunday”
With the way he has played this season, keeping Green from single-handedly beating the Steelers would just be icing on the cake for Lewis in his first season as a starter.
“I wouldn’t put everything on Keenan,” said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. “He’s got to play well, but so do the other 10 people out there.”
Lewis, who was the Steelers’ nickel back last season, leads the NFL with 26 pass deflections and has been a key part of the NFL’s best pass defense.
“He’s another long cornerback,” Green said of Lewis. “He has long arms. He is playing very well. I am going to have to be patient on my releases and keep his hands down.”
Green figures to be highly motivated against the Steelers after they held him to one catch for eight yards in a 24-17 victory in Cincinnati Oct. 21. That one catch went for a touchdown, but Green was largely a non-factor in the game.
“They always brought somebody up and put the safety over the top, the usual,” said Green of how the Steelers limited him.
Lewis, who was already nursing a sore hip, aggravated that injury while leaping high into the air to deflect a potential touchdown pass to Dez Bryant in the fourth quarter of last week’s overtime loss to Dallas.
Lewis slammed hard onto the turf at Cowboys Stadium and tried unsuccessfully to lobby head coach Mike Tomlin to put him back into the game.
It was nothing new for Lewis, who suffered a shoulder injury in training camp that was supposed to sideline him for at least a week. Lewis, who was fighting for a starting job with Cortez Allen, didn’t miss a practice.
“You can’t get off the field and give someone else an opportunity that I don’t want to pass up, so I just have to fight through these injuries and make it through,” said Lewis.
“I’m playing, no matter what. Even if it’s a pull or whatever, I’ll tape it up and be ready to go. You gotta play. The playoffs start now.”
Odds and end zones
In addition to Lewis and Taylor, safety Troy Polamalu (coach’s decision) did not practice Thursday. … Offensive tackle Mike Adams (ankle) was limited. … Defensive end Cam Heyward, wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and defensive end Al Woods, who were either limited or did not practice Wednesday, were full participants Thursday.