On Sunday afternoon against the Atlanta Falcons, veteran cornerback William Gay intercepted his third pass of the season, all three of which he managed to return for a touchdown. It was the first time in Pittsburgh Steelers franchise history that a player registered three such returns for scores in a season.
If you go back to the 2013 season, in fact, we find that Gay has actually returned four interceptions for touchdowns in the span of his last 20 games played, which is impressive.
It is especially so when considering that, prior to that game, he hadn’t had any returns for touchdowns in his then seven-year career.
All of a sudden, “Big Play” William Gay is truly beginning to live up to the name, delivering key defensive plays on a unit that has struggled overall to keep opponents out of the end zone this season.
The Steelers emerged victorious in each of the three games in which he recorded an interception this season. In two of them, the points provided the margin of victory. Against the Falcons, for example, the Steelers won 27-20.
The interception came after the Steelers offense had stalled at the 20-yard line on consecutive drives to open the game. On the first play of the Falcons’ next drive, Gay intercepted the ball and returned it 52 yards for the score, which at the time gave them a 13-0 lead. The Falcons went on to outscore the Steelers 20-14, but the defensive touchdown provided the margin of victory.
Earlier in the season, the Steelers only narrowly beat the Tennessee Titans by the score of 27-24, which included two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to retake the lead. But an early pick six from Gay helped keep the score close enough to keep the offense within striking distance at the end.
Though the Steelers ended up defeating the Indianapolis Colts by the score of 51-34, there was a time in the game in which the Colts offense closed to within a score in the third quarter. Before turning the game around with a safety and adding a bonus touchdown at the end, it was a second quarter Gay interception returned for a touchdown that helped give the team the cushion needed to sustain pressure on the opposing team.
Even if we go back to last season’s finale against the Cleveland Browns, it was Gay’s pick six at the end of the game that finally sealed it, as the Steelers went on to win by a score of 27-11 in a game in which it seemed the Browns offense was coming together late.
Since returning to Pittsburgh, Gay has started 22 of a possible 30 games, and in many ways he’s been a bit of a stabilizing force in the secondary, as hard as that may be to believe for many whose strongest memories of him are from the 2009 season when he was thrust full-time into a starting position he wasn’t ready for.