By Teresa Varley
Just hours after free agent cornerback Keiwan Ratliff came to an agreement with the Steelers, the team went out and drafted two corners, selecting Keenan Lewis in the third round and Joe Burnett in the fifth round.
While some players might look at that and wonder if they made the right choice, Ratliff didn't give it a second thought.
"I've been in this league a long time and I was brought in to compete," said Ratliff, who is entering his sixth season. "Whether they brought in three corners in the first, second and third round or no corners at all, I'm coming here to compete and I can only be as good as I can be.
"Any time they put a contract in front of me and say they want me, that means they want me no matter who else is on the roster. I'm just going to go out and compete and do what I can and hopefully my performance speaks for itself."
So far his performance is speaking volumes. He has made an impression in practice and against the Redskins on Saturday night made it count in game action when he intercepted Todd Collins in the second quarter and had a 10-yard return.
"Any time you can make plays and the defense was No. 1 in just about every statistical category last year that's always a bonus," said Ratliff.
Another bonus is his ability to play multiple positions and his experience in the nickel defense. He is also being asked to blitz in Dick LeBeau's defense, something the 5-11, 188-pound Ratliff wasn't asked to do in the past.
"This is really the first time in my career that I've had the opportunity to blitz," said Ratliff. "Most coaches see my size and say 'Oh we're going to keep him out of there.' Here with coach LeBeau no matter who you are you can end up coming. You can be the corner, safety, nickel, dime, whoever. Somebody's going to be blitzing. I love it."
Ratliff will use the final two preseason games to continue to do whatever he needs to prove that he deserved a spot on the 53-man roster. But he won't let himself get distracted, won't lose focus for a minute. He knows he has to be at his best, and worrying about what might happen in the weeks to come won't allow that.
"I've been sidetracked by that before by going into camp and looking at the roster and saying 'We're going to keep six corners or five corners or we're going to keep four safeties,'" said Ratliff. "That's one of those things where you get sidetracked and then your mind starts playing tricks on you. One of the things coach (Mike) Tomlin said is let him make the decisions. Don't make that decision for him. So I just try to go out and play every snap and whether they keep three corners or they keep 10 corners, I'm just trying to be one of those three or 10."
"I just take it day by day and go out and try to continue to make plays and at the end of the day hopefully they won't be calling me on September 5."