With veteran cornerback Ike Taylor now sidelined for several weeks with a broken right forearm, William Gay will start opposite Cortez Allen in the Pittsburgh Steelers base defense. When it comes to the Steelers nickel sub-package, however, there appears to be some uncertainty as to who the third cornerback will be.
After Taylor left the game against the Carolina Panthers with his injury, Gay took over for him but shifted back inside when the Steelers employed their nickel sub package and Antwon Blake entered the game and played outside.
Moving forward, head coach Mike Tomlin made it sound like he wasn’t ready to commit to Blake being the third cornerback to enter the game when the Steelers use their nickel package against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he talked to the media Tuesday.
“We’ve got some viable guys,” said Tomlin. “It happened to be Antwon Blake in the game, because he was next up in the game, but we’re not discounting what [Brice] McCain is capable of, we’re not discounting what B.W. Webb is capable of. That’s why we acquired him. We’ll let those guys sort themselves out on the practice field and be prepared.”
Against the Panthers, Blake didn’t have a great showing after Taylor went down injured as he gave up two catches for 50 yards with one being a 35-yard touchdown to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Both McCain and Webb, who the Steelers claimed off of waivers from the Dallas Cowboys after the final round of cuts were made, are best suited to play in the slot even though both have played outside as well.
It will be interesting to see if Tomlin keeps Gay outside in the nickel package against Buccaneers to help defend against 6’05” wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans.
One player that won’t get a chance to play the nickel corner spot is second-year safety Shamarko Thomas, as Tomlin said he hasn’t worked as a slot defender since playing a similar role last season in the Steelers quarters package that included three safeties on the field at one time.