Monday, March 04, 2013

The Return of Big Play Willie Gay

Cornerback William Gay has Tweeted he will return to the Steelers in 2013. Welcome back.

Gay's return suggests that free agent corner Keenan Lewis is likely gone, but Lewis is likely gone anyway. Our guess is that Cleveland is calling Lewis's name. Former Steeler secondary coach Ray Horton is now the defensive coordinator there, and Horton has stated explicitly that the Browns will play exactly the same defense as the Steelers. He knows Lewis, the Browns have money, and ... well, it's up to Lewis. Other teams will be calling him, as well, and there will be lots of money offered. Lewis is in line for a nice payday.

William Gay made some timely big  plays for the Steelers
Assuming Lewis is gone, Cortez Allen would probably step in for him as starting corner, and Gay would reprise his former nickel-slot role (although he was a starter here in 2011). Curtis Brown, presumably, would be first in line to play dime coverage, with competition from people like Justin King, Josh Victorian and rookies.

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls always believed William Gay was a better player than most fans credited him for being. Following the retirement of DeShea Townsend, Gay filled the role left vacant by Townsend, who was a better player, but Gay was always pretty solid both in the slot, and that is where he belongs.

He was also generally okay as a pure corner after he took over the starting corner role for Bryant McFadden during the 2011 season. By most reports, Gay was, eh, not so solid last year for the Arizona Cardinals. Like all corners, he gets burned now and then. He's not the best corner in the world, but he is mostly solid, especially in the slot and as a blitzer. To our eye, he looks a bit heavier than we remember him being. We don't know, but we wonder if he may have lost some speed over the past year or so; and he was never very fast to begin with.

William Gay, No. 22

Gay's return is not a world-changing development, but it solidifies the secondary a bit (hopefully). Gay can even re-claim his old uniform number (22), last seen on the ill-fated Chris Rainey.

Dave Bryan over at Steelers Depot offers interesting observations on the story of Gay's return and its implications for the draft, and he's probably right. It now seems unlikely the Steelers will invest a high-round pick on a cornerback.

Not that drafting a corner is necessarily a bad idea. Too many other spots to fill, but ...You can never have too many good corners, and Joey Porter's Pit Bulls wouldn't mind seeing a reasonably tall, rangy, physical corner -- in addition to Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen -- who tackles well, sticks the run and could cover the big receivers like A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Erick Decker, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johsnon, and that cast of characters we saw San Diego bring to town last year.

Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, anyone?  Probably not now; not with so many other spots to fill. Still, we expect the Steelers to try to add another Cortez Allen-type in the draft's middle rounds.

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