Rod Woodson had torn his ACL in the opener, and seven games into the 1995 season the Steelers were 3-4 and still hadn't found a capable replacement at cornerback opposite third-year pro Willie Williams. With Deon Figures working his way back from an offseason gunshot wound to the knee and free agent signing Alvoid Mays not playing well, Coach Bill Cowher decided the last/best option to save the season following a loss to the Bengals at Three Rivers Stadium was to move safety Carnell Lake to cornerback. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau got on the telephone and informed Lake of the impending move. The next day when LeBeau arrived for work at 6 a.m., Lake already was at the stadium waiting for the tutorial to begin. A linebacker in college, Lake first made the difficult transition to safety to be able to have a career in the NFL, and then as a professional he twice made the even more difficult transition to cornerback. Both times he made the move, he did it at midseason, and both times he stabilized the defense to the degree it became an asset to the Steelers in seasons that ended with a trip to Super Bowl XXX in 1995, and an appearance in the AFC Championship Game in 1997.
Lake made four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl from 1994-97, and in 1995 and 1997 he made it as a cornerback. In 1997, he became the first defensive back to lead the Steelers in sacks in a season (six) and after adding including three interceptions and a fumble recovery to go along with those sacks he was voted first-team All-Pro.