About five years ago, there may not have been a more vilified sports figure in the Pittsburgh area than William Gay.
Yes, in a sports market that included Pirates owner Bob Nutting, Penguins goaltender Marc Andre Fleury and Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, Gay was in select company as a player fans blamed a large part of their team’s sports ills on.
- In a way, it was probably hard to blame the fans.
After all, Gay, a fifth round pick out of Louisville in 2007, was the man Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin championed to be his starting corner in 2009, after veteran Bryant McFadden left for Arizona as a free agent.
But after being handed the keys to the number two cornerback spot, opposite Ike Taylor, Gay performed so poorly, the Steelers re-acquired McFadden during the 2010 NFL Draft weekend, and Gay was demoted back to the slot position.
Gay’s 2010 demotion, along with his being victimized by tight end Rob Gronkowski during a home loss to the Patriots in November, helped greatly in turning Gay from promising youngster to perennial whipping boy.
Quietly, however, Gay turned himself into a pretty decent corner in 2011, but, by this time, he was a free-agent, and like McFadden three years earlier, signed with the Cardinals. However, Gay was released after just one season, and Pittsburgh re-signed him with little hype.
But, hype or no hype, Gay picked up where he left off in 2011, and has started 30 games at cornerback over the past three seasons. Speaking of the last three seasons, Gay set an NFL record, when he became the first player to return five-straight interceptions for touchdowns. In doing so, Gay also tied Hall of Fame legend Rod Woodson for most pick-sixes in team history.
- William Gay also has more defensive touchdowns than Hall of Famers Mel Blount, Troy Polamalu and should be Hall of Famer Donnie Shell.
William Gay igned a three year deal on Tuesday to remain with the team that originally drafted him. Instead of a visceral reaction, Gay’s presence on the roster is now seen as calming and even influential to youngsters such as Senquez Golson and Ross Cockrell.
- Even back when Gay was showing a bit of immaturity with regards to his job-preparation, fact is, you never heard of any off-the-field issues with him.
Honestly, the Steelers would probably be better off if other players stepped up to seize the top two starting corner spots on the roster, while Gay took up residence in his more natural slot position. But if Gay is the Steelers’ top corner again next year, he certainly won’t be considered the major liability he was even a few years ago.
- William Gay has 11 career interceptions to his name and zero Pro Bowl appearances.
Before all is said and done, Gay might push that first number closer to 20 than it is to 10. As for any Pro Bowl selections, I wouldn’t bet on it.
But that’s no big deal. The more important thing is William Gay has found himself a home with the Steelers, and he’s built a nice little career that he and the team should be proud of.