Lewis makes most of unexpected opportunity

When Roy Lewis signed with the Steelers in the spring, smart money had the undrafted cornerback lucky to last much past the first cuts. But Lewis made his own luck when preparation met opportunity in Latrobe.

In most cases, NFL coaches handle rookies with kid gloves when it comes to asking them to learn more than one position.

But there are times when necessity forces the team's hand.

Such was the case with Steelers' rookie Roy Lewis.

With safeties Troy Polamalu and Anthony Smith not practicing early in training camp, the Steelers were forced to move somebody to the position. They didn't want to take one of their veteran cornerbacks and move him to the spot, though William Gay and Deshea Townsend each played free safety in the past.

Instead, they asked Roy Lewis to make the shift.

It was an eye-opening move for both the Steelers and Lewis.

"He took advantage of an opportunity that wasn't expected by me or by him," head coach Mike Tomlin said of the 5-10, 190-pound Lewis.

"That's always a good sign."

Lewis is positioning himself to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Tomlin, like most coaches, values players who can play more than one position because of the flexibility it gives the Steelers.

Lewis didn't lobby to move to safety, but he's embraced it.

"They just said, ‘Hey, Roy, we want you to start taking some snaps at safety and learn some safety,' " Lewis said. "I started studying my playbook and started learning all the DB positions – whether it's nickel, dime or safety – so that if I was thrown into those positions, I would know what to do. It's helped me understand the whole concept of the defense."

Lewis has done so despite not being able to practice with the team throughout much of the offseason.

NCAA rules prohibit players whose class has not graduated from attending offseason workouts other than mini-camp. Washington, where Lewis was a three-year starter, is a quarter school, meaning its graduation date is later than many universities.

So while the Steelers were holding offseason workouts this spring, Lewis was still attending classes.

"I still had an opportunity to study my playbook," Lewis said. "While they were here grinding and working, I was just back at school doing double-duty, going to class and working out and studying my book so I would be caught up. I didn't know exactly what I was missing, so in order to prepare for everything, I made sure I was well-rounded in everything I was doing."

That's paying off now.

"More than anything, what he's done is cast a bigger net," said Tomlin. "He's shown that he's capable of doing multiple things and bettering his chances of being a part of this thing. He's very deliberate for a guy who's moving from corner to safety. He didn't shy away from any contact."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter

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