Antwon Blake Agrees to Deal with Titans

You can add cornerback Antwon Blake to the growing list of Steelers defensive free-agents who won’t be around in 2016.

  • As per their official team website, the Titans have reached an agreement on a one-year deal with Blake, who started 16 games in Pittsburgh a year ago.

Blake, an undrafted free-agent out of UTEP in 2012, played one year with the Jaguars, before winding up in Pittsburgh for the 2013 season. Blake was simply on the peripheral of things until about midway through the 2014 campaign, when he began to emerge as a key component in the Steelers’ struggling secondary.

  • Blake teamed up with Brice McCain to shore up the pass-defense, after it was apparent that Cortez Allen, he of the lucrative new offseason contract, simply wasn’t up to the task.

By the end of the 2014 season, Allen was benched, and Blake was a major contributor, recording six passes defensed and an interception. However, Blake’s biggest contribution came in Week 17, when he both forced and recovered a fumble of Bengals receiver A.J. Green late in the fourth quarter that preserved a 20-17 lead and paved the way for the Steelers’ first AFC North title in four seasons.

A season ago, Blake was entrusted as a starting corner, and despite recording 11 passes defensed, along with a 70-yard pick-six against the Chargers in Week 5, he was mostly the subject for fan scorn and ridicule, as Pittsburgh’s defense finished 30th against the pass.

Blake may not have been the answer in the secondary, but the question of who is still remains.

As of right now, the Steelers have veteran William Gay and youngster Ross Cockrell as corners, to go along with veteran Mike Mitchell and unproven youngster Robert Golden at the safety spots.

You have to assume that the experiment with Allen is all but over after five years and one contract extension. As for Shamarko Thomas, the safety Pittsburgh traded a third round pick to move up in the fourth round of  the 2013 NFL Draft to select, he impressed so little in 2015 (the year he was supposed to succeed the legendary Troy Polamalu), he barely got on the field.

Senquez Golson and Doran Grant, two members of the 2015 draft class, may provide some answers in the secondary. Also, veteran safety Will Allen is still unsigned, as is corner Brandon Boykin, who spent last season with the Steelers. If one or both of those players can be added back to the secondary mix for 2016, you may feel better about things.

  • As of right now, however, there are far too many unknowns in the Steelers’ defensive backfield to feel confident about an improved pass-defense for the 2016 season.

Along with Blake and Spence, the Steelers’ defense has also lost nose tackle Steve McLendon and linebacker Terrence Garvin to free-agency so far this offseason.

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. 

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Scratch Another Steelers Inside Linebacker: Redskins Sign Terence Garvin

Pittsburgh’s “free agent exodus” continues as the Steelers lost their fourth player as the Washington Redskins sign Terence Garvin to play inside linebacker.

As Simon Chester of USA Today’s Steelers Wire confirms, because the Steelers did not tender Terence Garvin a restricted free agent offer, Garvin’s free agent defection will not count into the NFL’s compensatory pick calculations next spring.

  • It has been standard operating procedure in Pittsburgh to extend tenders to restricted free agents.

A year ago the Steelers tendered Will Johnson, Antwon Blake, and Robert Golden, however this year the Steelers did not tender Garvin freeing him to negotiate with any team.

Inside Linebacking Depth Thinning but Still Strong

For the past two seasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacking depth has been the envy of the NFL, with Lawrence Timmons and Ryan Shazier starting, backed up by Sean Spence, Vince Williams and Terence Garvin. Now Sean Spence is in Tennessee and Garvin is in Washington, leaving only Vince Williams and potentially Jordan Zumwalt as backups.

  • Depth, however, is often the first victim of the salary cap

The Steelers depth at outside linebacker may be thinning, but is still fairly strong headed into 2016, as Vince Williams is more than capable. The Steelers also have L.T. Fort who did not play in 2015 but did hold down a roster spot. Zumwalt also offers potential, but the Steelers exposed him to the Injured/waived list.

While Garvin is certainly the type of player you want to bring back to your team, the fact that the Steelers are letting him walk without a whimper is a testament to how quickly an NFL depth chart can change.

Garvin made the Steelers after getting a tryout invitation to the Steelers 2013 rookie minicamp. During the latter part of the season, he began to work himself into the Steelers 3rd down package while making a name for himself on special teams. Mike Tomlin, in fact, called him “a big safety.”

  • As the Steelers 2014 off season began, Garvin looked to be pushing Vince Williams for time in coming season.

However, Sean Spence recovered from his knee injury and the Steelers drafted Ryan Shazier. As consequence Terence Garvin’s defensive snap count dropped from 31 in 2013 to 11 in 2014 to 8 in 2015.

With Terence Garvin leaves Pittsburgh without having many quantitative measures to mark his time as a Steeler, but he did leave one qualitative mark:

Terence Garvin sure did know how to hit!

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. 

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Steelers Success Story Sean Spence Signs with Tennessee Titans

The Pittsburgh Steelers may have started free agency with a splash, but that feel-good story line couldn’t alter one fundamental off season reality:

  • The Steelers were going to lose several players who helped them reach the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

Yesterday that reality translated into Kelvin Beachum signing with the Jaguars and Steve McLendon agreeing to terms with the New York Jets. Today it means that Sean Spence has signed with the Tennessee Titans where he will be reunited with his former Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapport is reporting that Spence signed a 2.5 million dollar contract and based on the data available on the site Over the Cap, that salary would make Spence the 32nd highest inside linebacker in the league.

So while Sean Spence’s contract qualifies as “starter money” there is also a sort of “Prove It” element to it, given its one year length.

Sans Spence, Steelers Inside Linebacking Depth Still Solid

Sean Spence’s free agent defection was hardly unexpected. The Steelers drafted Sean Spence in 2012 with an eye toward replacing recently retired James Farrior and soon to depart Larry Foote. Spence suffered a gruesome injury in preseason, and the Steelers drafted Vince Williams in in the 2013 NFL Draft and then Ryan Shazier in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Sean Spence is clearly the type of player you’d like to have on your team, but paying an backup inside linebacker 2.5 million dollars a year is not a luxury that the salary cap affords the Steelers. For comparison’s sake, Vince Williams will make $675,000 and Ryan Shazier will earn $1,284,292.

In 2016, Vince Williams will play out the final year of his rookie deal and Jordan Zumwalt will come to training camp with a shot to earn a roster spot. The Steelers opted to make Terence Garvin an unrestricted free agent by not offering him a restricted free agent tender, although he could still resign with the Steelers, although he has visited with other NFL teams.

Timmons Stays with Steelers

Finally, Sean Spence’s departure from Pittsburgh without an offer from the Steelers should put to rest any rumors that the Steelers were considering releasing Lawrence Timmons as to save salary cap space.

Given the fact that Mike Tomlin thinks highly of Timmons, and given the large dead money hit the Steelers would take by releasing him, those rumors were hardly credible.

Still, these persisted, but they should end now.

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. 

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Jets Sign Steve McLendon as Steelers Lose Nose Tackle

The Pittsburgh Steelers wanted Steve McLendon back. Presumably, McLendon wanted to stay with the team that gave him a shot to play in the Super Bowl as an undrafted rookie free agent. But the price was not right for either side on a busy day of free agency that saw the New York Jets sign Steve McLendon to a 3 year 12 million dollar deal.

After Kelvin Beachum, who signed also signed with the Jaguars today, Steve McLendon represented one of the Steelers biggest question marks heading into free agency. While defensive coordinator Keith Butler is making changes to the Steelers defense, a big part of the franchise’s defensive philosophy is stopping the run to force 3rd and longs.

  • And you need a solid nose tackle to make that happen.

Casey Hampton did that masterfully for over a decade, and Steve McLendon had done well as Hampton’s successor. In an earlier era, a new contract for McLendon would have been a no-braier, and probably would have come right after William Gay and Ramon Foster’s deals in terms of priorities.

  • But the Steelers defense is evolving.

Perhaps Mark Kabloy of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review said it best:

Steve McLendon only played in about 1/3 of the Steelers defensive snaps in 2015, as their use of “sub packages” eclipsed their traditional reliance on the standard 3-4 alignment. By all accounts, the Steelers were upfront with McLendon about what they were prepared to offer him, and encouraged him to test the market. McLendon found a taker in New York.

Daniel McCullers would look to have the first shot at replacing him, and 6’7” and 357 pounds he clearly has the frame clog up the middle. But McCullers did make much of a leap between 2014 and 2015 and that leaves the Steelers exposed.

Moreover, even if McCullers does deliver, the Steelers defensive line depth is thin. Cam Heyward and Stephon Tuitt are as fine a tandem of defensive ends as you’ll ever see in the NFL, but behind them the Steelers essentially have L.T. Walton. There had been rumblings that the Steelers were interested in bringing Al Woods back, but Woods will stay in Tennessee.

The Steelers will look to defensive line in the draft, but don’t be surprised to see them begin working out free agent defensive tackles.

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. 

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Hello Harris, Bye Bye Beachum – Steelers Sign Ryan Harris, Lose Kelvin Beachum to Jaguars

How does the song go, “I don’t know why you’re saying goodbye I’m saying hello?” One can imagine bars of that classic Lennon and McCartney ditty are being hummed by Mike Munchak and Todd Haley on the South Side on an active day in free agency that saw the Steelers sign Ryan Harris while losing Kelvin Beachum to the Jaguars.

As a rookie, Harris appeared in 11 games for the Broncos, but never started. That changed in his second year, where he started 16 games in 2008 and 8 games in 2009 before getting injured. From there Harris started 10 of 11 games in 2010, but he left as a free agent for the Houston Texans.

Ryan Harris played in 32 games over two years for the Texans, but only made five starts in Houston, but Andy Reid made him a starter for a year in 2014 with the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2015 Harris returned to the Mile High City, where he would split his time between left and right tackle, starting in 15 of 16 games.

Ryan Harris will be 31 this year and the Steelers reportedly signed the offensive tackle to a two year 3.9 million dollar contract.

Bye, Bye Beachum

One of the bigger questions the Steelers faced heading into free agency was the fate of free agent offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum. The Steelers liked Beachum and wanted to resign him last summer, but the two sides failed to reach an agreement. Initally, it looked like Beachum’s decision not to test the market might cost him, as he tore his ACL at mid season.

  • However, the Jacksonville Jaguars literally have salary cap space to burn, and clearly were ready to offer more than Pittsburgh.

The Steelers did want Beachum back, but they did not want to pay him premium left tackle starter money to Beachum, instead hoping to sign him to a one year deal. That didn’t happen which reveals something important about how the Steelers see their offensive line.

Starting Left Tackle is Villanueva’s Job to Loose

The Steelers telegraphed their hand early in free agency when they opted to prioritize resigning  as opposed to offering a competitive deal to Beachum. Guards make less than tackles, and Ramon Foster is healthy so there was no surprise there, but until it happened there was a chance it would not.

Word leaked that the Steelers wanted to bring Beachum back on a “Prove it” deal, but at the same time the Steelers worked out Seattle’s Russell Okung and San Diego’s Chris Hairston. Okung was wowed by the Steelers Lombardi collection and the Steelers made him an offer, but it was not strong enough for him to accept it. What to make of this?

Villanueva took over the role in mid-2015 when Bechum got hurt, and while his game had flaws, he played well. The Steelers interest in bringing Beachum back fueled speculation that Mike Tomlin and/or Mike Munchak didn’t think that Villuenva was ready to become the full time starter.

Ryan Harris’ contract averages at just below 2 million per year, which puts him on the fringe of starting left tackle money, indicating that the Steelers see Harris as an insurance policy, not as a starter.

The Steelers are comfortable going into 2016 with Alejandro Villanueva as their starter. Mike Adams will also return to provide depth at offensive tackle.

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. 

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The REAL Value of the Steelers 6th Round Compensatory Pick in the 2016 NFL Draft

The NFL awarded the Steelers a 6th round compensatory pick for losing Brice McCain in free agency last year. A jaded fan might react: “Woopie an extra pick at the bottom of the 6th round.”

  • Such attitudes would be little more than ignorant bliss.

Steelers.com reminded Steelers Nation that Hines Ward, Mike Vrabel, Amos Zereoue, Willie Colon and William Gay were compensatory picks. They could have added Daniel McCullers, and Kelvin Beachum were compensatory selections (so was Dri Archer, but most people on the South Side would probably rather forget that.)

  • A 6th round pick might sound ho, hum, but Antonio Brown was a 6th round pick.

Vince Williams, Willie Williams, Leroy Thompson, Greg Lloyd and Dwayne Woodruff were all 6th round picks. Those men serve as powerful reminders that good players are on the board in every round, and that no draft picks should be considered “throw aways.”

But that’s not the real value of the Steelers 6th round compensatory pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Real Value of the Steelers 6th Round Compensatory Pick

The fact that the Steelers got a compensatory pick is good, because before that they were looking at going into the 2016 NFL Draft with only 6 picks, having traded away their 5th pick to get Brandon Boykin and their 6th round pick to get Josh Scobee.

  • By definition, 7 picks is better than 6 picks in any draft.

But the real value that the Steelers 6th round compensatory selection gives Pittsburgh is something else: Flexibility. Ben Roethlisberger is 34 years old. Under Todd Haley Ben Roethlisberger is playing the best football of his life, and his game is not showing any drop off.

Moreover, Ben Roethlisberger has weapons that Terry Bradshaw never dreamed of. And that is no disrespect to Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Franco Harris or Bennie Cunningham.

  • But if Ben’s game isn’t showing any signs of wear and tear, perhaps his body is.

After playing nearly every snap in 2013 and nearly every snap in 2014, Ben Roethlisberger had to be relieved by Michael Vick or Landry Jones on four separate occasions in 2015. This could just be the law of averages at work, or it could be the collective toll of all of the punishment Roethlisberger has taken beginning to make its presence felt.

Either way, the lesson is clear:

  • Ben Roethlisberger is closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it.

Steelers Nation should expect the Pittsburgh Steelers to field a Super Bowl caliber offense in 2016, as for the Steelers defense? Well, that remains a work in progress. As Tony Defeo indicates, Keith Butler deserves praise for his first season.

  • The Steelers defense performed far better than anyone had a right to expect.

Even those who thought that things could be better (like this site), lacked the courage to say that the Steelers defense would be better. But if the Steelers defense was better than expected, it still wasn’t Super Bowl caliber. Anyone who saw the Denver Broncos smother the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers should immediately understand.

  • Kevin Colbert must strengthen the Steelers defense in the 2016 NFL Draft, and he needs players who can deliver fast.

And that’s where the Steelers 6th round compensatory pick comes in. For the first time since the NFL adopted its compensatory draft pick system in 1993, compensatory picks can be traded. Having a 6th round picks gives Kevin Colbert the freedom to consider some wheeling and dealing during the draft.

Sure… the last time two times the Steelers traded up they picked Shamarko Thomas and Alameda Ta’amu. Neither man worked out.

  • But neither Shamarko nor Ta’Mau is indicative of Kevin Colbert’s record in trading up.

Colbert has traded up twice in the first round. The first time he moved up in 2003 and picked Troy Polamalu. The second time it was to pick Santonio Holmes. One is a future Hall of Famer, the other was the Super Bowl XLIII MVP.

Steel Curtain Rising will leave it to the draft nicks to decide if the Steelers “should” or “should not” trade up in the 2016 NFL Draft. But the Steelers 6th compensatory pick makes trading up a much more viable prospect.

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4 Pittsburgh Steelers Free Agency Week One Takeaways

Free agency began with a bang in Pittsburgh, not a phrase you hear very often, as the Steelers resigned four of their own players and brought in free agent tight end Ladarius Green from the San Diego Chargers.

Regardless of how you cut it, there’s been a lot of activity over the past few days, so were do the Steelers stand? Well, here are 4 quick takeaways from the Steelers first week of free agency.

steelers, free agency, robert golden, william gay, ben roethlisberger

Robert Golden and William Gay will remain with Ben Roethlisberger on the 2016 Steelers. (Photo credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports)

1. The Steelers  are NOT acting out of character.

The Steelers don’t make “splashes” in free agency. That’s true. In 1969 this franchise committed itself to building through the draft and promoting from within. 6 Lombardy trophies prove philosophy works.

But even back when Three Rivers Stadium’s limited revenue constrained Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher’s free agent budget, Dan Rooney pulled the trigger on big free agent signings.

In the spring of 1993, the sky was falling in Pittsburgh over the free agent defections of former Pro Bowler Tunch Ilkin, former first round pick Aaron Jones, current Pro Bowler Hardy Nickerson, and seemingly budding superstar Jerrol Williams.

The Steelers wanted Williams back, but when they lost him they signed Kevin Greene. The signing wasn’t the lead story on ESPN that night and didn’t get much coverage outside of Pittsburgh, but when Kevin Greene signed his free agent offer, he became the highest paid Pittsburgh Steeler in history.

  • The bottom line will never win the “Off season Lombardi” but have leveraged free agency to find players that helped them win Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.

The Steelers pioneered the practice of focusing on resigning your own free agents so inking William Gay, Ramon Foster, Robert Golden and Darrius Heyward-Bey to contracts is par for the course. Making a big, day 1 free agency signing is rare, but the Steelers did something similar just 2 years ago when the signed Mike Mitchell.

2. The Steelers are spending smart, not big.

Signing 5 players certainly lends itself to the appearance of big spending. But the numbers tell a different tale. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers have only committed themselves to 11.5 million in guaranteed money, or about seven million less than Ben Roethlisberger’s salary cap hit for 2016. Further more, the Steelers have only added about 10 million to their 2016 salary cap.

Looking at the numbers, they almost certainly did. Not a bad business decision for players in their 30’s who’d like another chance to taste Super Bowl glory before they retire. But Ladarius Green’s contract is also team-friend, with only 4.75 million in total guarantees.

Even if Green suffers a catastrophic injury or washes out completely, and the Steelers have to cut him this time next year, his dead money hit will only less than Cortez Allen’s 2016 dead money hit.

3. The Steelers are doubling down on offense.

Even with all of the injuries and suspensions in 2015, the Pittsburgh’s offense was potent. Assuming “The Triplets” stay healthy, putting Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell along side Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, Sammie Coates, Ladarius Green and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the Steelers offense in 2015 can become lethal.

  • At least that’s what Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin are betting heavily on.

No one doubts the potential of the Steelers offense in 2016, and few are disputing the Steelers efforts to resign Ramon Foster, Heyward-Bey and the decision to get Green has been well received. However, Pittsburgh journalist Ken Laird had this to say:

This isn’t just negative nay saying. As the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s Joe Starkey points out, only one of the NFL’s top 15 all time scoring offenses has won a Super Bowl. The most recent one, the 2013 Broncos, looked like a juggernaut until they got schooled by a superior defense in the Super Bowl.

The dollars and sense would of salary cap decisions, a tight end of Ladarius Green’s caliber probably gets your more bang for your buck than does a defensive back.

  • But the Steelers depth charts at both safety and cornerback are pretty shallow.

Beyond that, the Steelers have not come to terms with Steve McLendon, which figures to be another cost-benefit, nor did they offer a restricted free agent tender to inside linebacker Terence Garvin.

Like all free agent decisions, these choices are calculated risks. But the Steelers are taking fewer risks with their offensive firepower than they are with their defense.

4. Steelers free agents are getting attention from the rest of the NFL.

Talk can be cheap at this time of year. Every agent’s moral imperative is to convince all 32 NFL teams that the other 31 NFL teams are ready to offer his client a gzailliion dollars at any moment. So take some of these reports with a grain of salt:

  • The Seahawks are talking to Cam Thomas (and Seattle wants to get to a Super Bowl?)
  • The Jets, Bears, Chargers and Titans all would LOVE to sign Will Johnson
  • The all knowing, all seeing Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network tells us the Ravens are eyeing Kelvin BeachumBeachum’s name has also been linked to the Jets.

The Steelers are also apparently looking at the Detroit Lion’s defensive end Jason Jones, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Take that for what you will. Often times the biggest free agent moves come completely under the radar.

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. 

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Steelers Sign Tight End Ladarius Green

The Pittsburgh Steelers aggressive approach to free agency quick turned its efforts outside of the organization in a move that saw the Steelers sign tight end Ladarius Green to a four year contract, per reports by Neal Coolong of USA Today’s The Steelers Wire, and the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson.

If Wilson’s reporting is correct, Ladarius Green’s contract continued a $4.75 million dollar signing bonus along with base salaries in the 5 million dollar range, save for the first year. Per numbers on the site Over the Cap, Green’s 5 million dollar annual salary with the Steelers would put him at about 18th out of all 2015 tight end salaries. His 5 million in guaranteed money would rank him at 24th.

  • In lay terms, the Steelers are making a significant, yet relatively safe investment.

This may not amount to the type of “Splash” Steelers free agency move that some fans have longed for, but it does fit the franchise model of going out to the free agent market and paying a competitive salary to fill a need. They did it with Kevin Greene in the 1990’s, Jeff Hartings in 2001, Ryan Clark in 2006 and Mike Mitchell in 2014.

Ladarius Green has Gigantic Shoes to Fill

And the Steelers certainly do have a need to fill. Heath Miller is now enjoying we well deserved retirement, but when Heath Miller retired, Ben Roethlisberger lost his most reliable target – by a wide margin.

Now it will fall to Ladarius Green to become Ben Roethlisberger’s go to man in the middle of the field. During the time he was in Pittsburgh, Heath Miller caught 72% of the passes that were targeted to him, second only to Le’Veon Bell. For comparison’s sake, Ladarius Green’s career targets to catches ratio is 63%.

  • That doesn’t mean that Green is a bad pick up, but it proves just how big a set of shoes that he has to fill.

The San Diego Chargers drafted Ladarius Green in the 4th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He only caught four passes as a rookie, but installed himself as a starter from his second year on, and has caught 77 passes for 1087 yards and 7 touchdowns in his career.

He caught 5 of those passes against Pittsburgh in the Steelers Monday Night win against the Chargers. Ladarius Green stands at 6-6 and weighs 237 pounds and is known for what Mike Tomlin described as “Vertical speed.”

Welcome to Steelers Nation Ladarius Green.

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. 

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William Gay has Found a Home with Steelers

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.

william gay, interception, touchdown, pick six, steelers, bengals, andy dalton

William Gay takes it to the house vs. Andy Dalton and the Bengals (photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

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 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.

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. 

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Steelers Resign Ramon Foster to 3 Year Contract

It appears that Steelers guard Ramon Foster has found a permanent home in Pittsburgh. Just hours before he was to become a free agent, the Steelers resigned Ramon Foster to a 3 year contract.

Foster shared the following message with his followers in Instagram:

Ramon Foster turned 30 in January and while this latest 3 year contract does not ensure that he will play his entire career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, it raises the probability exponentially. Ramon Foster’s future in Pittsburgh was one of the biggest questions the Steelers faced heading into free agency.

While the Steelers have not groomed a ready replacement, word leaked that they preferred to move Kelvin Beachum to guard.

Observers also pointed to the tendency to staff their offensive line with younger, more athletic players, and concluded that Foster didn’t match that type.

That left Foster’s fate a little vague. Would the Steelers let him test the market? Would the Steelers place their faith in Chris Hubbard and/or look to the draft to replace Foster? At the end of the day Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin provided an iunequivocal answer:

Foster’s leadership this season in mentoring Alejandro Villanueva is also something which the team valued.

Ramon Foster began with the Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009 making sporadic starts that year and in 2010 and has been a fixture on the line since then. Free agency is only a few hours old, but the Pittsburgh Steelers have already resigned William Gay, Robert Golden, Darrius Heyward-Bey and now they have Foster under contract.

Interestingly enough, there has been no word on either a contract or talks with Steve McLendon, who represents the next biggest potential hole the Steelers may need to fill in free agency. Things can and will change fast….

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