When the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to sign back cornerback William Gay last offseason after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals, you would have thought they signed NBA forward Rudy Gay, judging by the overall reaction by the fan base. While several laughed at the signing, it was William Gay that wound up having the last laugh thanks to his stellar play in 2013.
While several of Gay’s previous doubters have already begrudgingly given the veteran cornerback his due for his play last season, Pro Football Focus has now tipped their hat to the Louisville product by naming him one of their 2014 Secret Superstars.
On Wednesday, PFF analyst Sam Monson not only accurately described Gay’s up and down first go-around in Pittsburgh, he also highlighted his strong play last season.
While Gay only started 11 games last season, he was by far the Steelers best cornerback in 2013 as evidenced by his 72.9 passer rating yielded when targeted in coverage. Monson goes on to write that Gay’s overall PFF player rating of +11.1 would have been even higher last season had he registered more than just one interception, which was only the sixth of his career. However, as we all know by now, the lack of pressure provided by the Steelers defense over the course of the last several years has resulted in team interceptions being a lot lower than they should be.
Being a willing and able tackler has forever been a prime requisite for Steelers cornerbacks and Monson makes sure to highlight that portion of Gay’s 2013 play as well in his article.
His coverage represented a high-water mark during his career in 2013 but it was a more complete performance than just coverage. Only Captain Munnerlyn notched more defensive stops (tackles constituting an offensive failure) and only Tracy Porter recorded a run stop at a better rate. Too many corners in the league aren’t too interested in the run game, but a certain special breed see it as an opportunity to make more plays. Those are the corners I enjoy watching the most and Gay most certainly falls into that second category.
Should young Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen stay healthy this offseason, he’ll more than likely be the starter opposite Ike Taylor in 2014 and that means that Gay will likely go back to playing mostly in sub packages. However, should either Taylor or Allen wind up getting injured or not playing well at any point during the season, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin won’t hesitate to replace either with Gay.
The Steelers defense certainly had its problem last season, but there would’ve been even more problems had Gay not played like he did. No, Gay won’t go down in Steelers history as being a Superstar, but in 2013 his play was indeed super compared to the rest of the players on defense and that shouldn’t be kept a secret.