With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: William Gay, CB
Once the punching bag of the entire city, cornerback William Gay has been a savior of sorts for the Steelers’ secondary ever since Pittsburgh re-signed him last year.
Despite returning to the team for what they assumed would be slot corner duties, he has now been a starter for 19 of the team’s 27 games, including 11 last season and eight this year, since Week Four after Ike Taylor went down due to injury.
With the demise of Cortez Allen, however, Gay will be remaining in the starting lineup even with Taylor returning to the lineup today. Gay also replaced Allen due to performance issues last year, even though the coaching staff put the latter back in the starting lineup by the end of the year.
Of the Steelers’ last 12 games, dating back to the season finale of last year, Gay has recorded three interceptions returned for touchdowns, including two of them this year against the Colts and the Titans.
While Gay has given up a couple of touchdowns this year—two of them were of the lengthy variety within the past two games—they were more understandable, such as the double move against the Titans in which the safety help over the top never showed itself. Gay bit and took the gamble because he believed he would be covered if it failed.
Overall, he has had a solid season, despite being asked to play outside. According to Pro Football Focus, he has only given up a reception on just a bit over half of his targets, though those long receptions over the last two games have thrown his yards per reception statistic out of whack and is not representative of his seasonal performance.
When looking ahead at the future for the Steelers at the cornerback position, it’s hard to imagine that Gay will have an opportunity to slide back into the slot right now, which is where he is more comfortable and performs at a higher level. He has only played 55 snaps in the slot this year, according to PFF, due to him being needed to serve as the top cornerback outside.