With the start of free agency less than 24 hours away, the Pittsburgh Steelers have left zero ambiguity over what their priorities are. The Steelers have resigned 3 of their own players. First came safety Robert Golden. Then wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.
- And now they’ve signed cornerback William Gay to a 3 year contract.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but William Gay communicated the word via his Instagram account and his agent confirmed it to members of the press.
- The Steelers also confirmed the report on their website.
By resigning William Gay and Robert Golden, the Pittsburgh Steelers have locked down two of potential starters from their secondary before they even hit the free agent market. That still leaves the Steelers needing help at both safety and cornerback.
Veteran safety Will Allen could retire and Shamarko Thomas has little more than disappoint since the Steelers traded up to get him in the 2013 NFL Draft. At cornerback, Cortez Allen has been an even bigger disappointment while Brandon Boykin and Antwon Blake are both free agents. Behind them the Steelers have rookies Senquez Golsen and Doran Grant, neither of whom played a down in 2015.
In William Gay, the Steelers have battle tested veteran, who owns a Super Bowl ring and can command respect on and off the field.
What a Difference 4 Years Makes
Both William Gay and the Steelers have been here before. In 2011 following the NFL lockout, the Steelers offered Gay a second contract, but at the time Gay was a number 3 corner who’d struggled as a starter and essentially got a “prove it” contract.
Gay’s play improved tremendously in 2011, yet the Steelers let him walk because of promising development of Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen.
Keenan Lewis developed as promised, but the Steelers had limited salary cap space and let Lewis go, banking heavily on on Cortez Allen surpassing Keenan Lewis.
- Cortez Allen flashed at the end of 2013, but has struggled since then.
The Arizona Cardinals cut William Gay after one season, and the Steelers almost immediately resigned him. Although Gay was only getting 1.5 million per year, far below starter money for the Steelers, William Gay has been a veritable big play machine since returning five interceptions for touchdowns, which ties Rod Woodson‘s career total with the Steelers.
- There is some risk in signing a 31 year old cornerback to a 3 year contract.
But skeptical fans should keep in mind that Rod Woodson intercepted 15 passes in the three seasons following his 31st birthday. Unfortunately, only six of those were with the Steelers as Tom Donahoe allowed him to depart as a free agent. To this day, Dan Rooney publicly regrets letting go of Rod Woodson.
While no one here is predicting a Hall of Fame career for William Gay, the Steelers have made sure he won’t follow Rod Woodson’s footsteps by playing some of his best ball in another uniform.
Free agency go your head spinning? Check out our Steelers 2016 free agent tracker and/or click here to read all articles on our Steelers 2016 Free Agent Focus section.