With the 2016 NFL Draft now over and the bulk of the heavy lifting done with regard to the roster building process now out of the way, it is easier to begin to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand at certain positions, and what the implications might be of a variety of moves for certainly players.
And take stock is what we shall do, as every move has ramifications up and down the roster, so now we will take a look at some specific players and see how the team’s moves during the course of the offseason thus far, and more specifically since the draft, has sent their stock rising or falling.
Player: CB William Gay
Stock Value: Even
When you’re 31—at least from an athletic perspective—chances are you’re already through with your physical upward trajectory. As well as William Gay has played over the course of the past three seasons since returning to Pittsburgh, there seems to be no compelling reason to expect that he hasn’t already reached his ceiling.
And that’s fine, of course, as long as he doesn’t start trending in the other direction this year. Chances are, he has only perhaps a year or two left as a starter in the base defense, at least if the rest of the Steelers’ secondary develops as is hoped. Gay could then assume the role of the wily veteran that he is already operating under, only more from the background.
Not the most physically imposing defensive back on the roster, the 5’10”, 187-pounder has learned to use his knowledge of himself, the defense, and his opponents in order to get an edge, and that helps him set a record with five consecutive interceptions returns for touchdowns, with six interceptions over the course of the past three seasons.
Last season was, in fact, the first of his entire career in which he started the year and finished as a starter, though he has had no shortage of starting experience in between, nor has he ever missed a game before in his nine NFL seasons.
One thing that he will likely have to face more this season is targets, as he lined up against some of the most heavily-targeted defensive backs in the league last season, and that is expected to balance out a bit this time around as the rest of the cornerback group develops.
Gay has already reached his peak, which is no admonishment of a 31-year-old cornerback, an old man so to speak for what is typically a young man’s position. His peak was never a Pro Bowl player, but he did get better with age, and maintained a solid level of play in recent years.
The goal now is just the keep riding that even keel through this season and however many he might have left, whether that comes in the starting lineup, in the nickel slot, or as a backup player. He has been an unlikely number one cornerback for the Steelers, but he has, for the most part, held his own.