The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season ended a few weeks earlier that they had planned it to, but now that their 2015 campaign has drawn to a conclusion, it’s time to wrap things up and take stock of where they are and how they got there. Part of that process involves holding player exit meetings at the conclusion of each season.
Of course, we’re not privy to the specifics that go on in each of these meetings between head coach and player, and whomever else might be involved in any particular discussion, but if we were conducting them, it might go something like this.
Player: William Gay
Experience: 9 Years
Where would the Steelers be without William Gay? Well, he is schedule to hit unrestricted free agency in about a month from now, so it’s possible that they will find out—again—although it seems far more likely than not that the team manages to retain him.
During his ninth season in the NFL, and his eighth overall with the Steelers in his second go-around, Gay managed to set an NFL record by recording a return touchdown on five straight interceptions over a three-season span. Gay recorded a second interception later in the season that officially ended his streak, but he has five total interceptions in the last two years—plus a sixth negated by penalty.
The veteran also chipped in 58 tackles, a sack, and seven passes defensed in a year in which opposing cornerbacks are throwing at him less frequently than they ever have before, a somewhat ironic turn of events given how heavily targeted he was early in his attempts in the starting lineup in 2009.
Seeing fewer targets because of the youth, inexperience, and injuries barraging the cornerback rotation on the opposite side of the field, Gay put together a very good year, during which I do not recall that he was beat for a touchdown during the regular season.
The tide seemed to turn a bit more in the postseason, at least from my own observations, during which it seemed that Gay was targeted, and successfully, a bit more frequently than he had been in the regular season.
Because of his size, he will also struggle with his tackling from time to time, but he is actually a very good tackler when all things are considered. As he has advanced in years, so too has his game, and he has become a pretty smart gambler, knowing when to take his chances.
When he does pick his spots, it is far more often positive than negative, resulting in a stop, a deflection, or even an interception. He has gotten burned on a double move here and there, but his instincts have been far more an asset than not.
It would be hard to imagine that the Steelers will not re-sign him this offseason, even if it requires a bit of a pay increase to make it happen, considering that the past three seasons have arguably been the best of his career, averaging 63 tackles, two interceptions, nine passes defensed, and about 1.5 combined sacks and fumbles.