New series we’re kicking off here to get us through the upcoming dog days of the offseason. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.
William Gay – Continue To Be A Leader/Communicator
For a long-time veteran like Gay, it’s hard to define any areas of improvement. It’s not like he’s going to get faster or stronger. And though I already regard him as a leader, this might be the biggest year where those skills are put to the test.
We’ve mentioned this nugget of info several times. 24 year old Ross Cockrell, one year in the system, is the second most experienced cornerback on this roster. Really let that thought sink in. Behind Cockrell are Senquez Golson, Artie Burns, and Doran Grant who combined, have played a total of one snap in the regular and preseason.
Also, no, I’m not including Donald Washington so hush, you rogue Internet commentator.
Gay is 31. That’s practically Father Time to these guys. None of these players were in college when Gay broke into the league in 2007. Burns, at 21, was in the fifth grade. That’s enough to freak you out. So you have all these young players carrying significant pressure to play a role for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mentally, that has to be tough to manage.
That’s where Gay has to step in. Be a leader, a mentor, and work to relate to these guys. Get them involved, get them comfortable. Teach them how to take care of their body. There’s no better spokesperson than Gay, who has never missed a game in his career.
Off the field, he has to be a presence but has to walk that line between being helpful and being overbearing. On the field, he has to be a manager. There’s going to be a ton of information being spit out in a short period of time and Gay has to communicate as well as he ever has before. Verbal cues, hand signals, checks versus different formations, personnel groupings, and motions. It’s a lot to handle. I don’t want to say Gay has to babysit the others but…he might have to babysit.
With more complex schemes, some of the fire zones and general pattern reading the team does, Gay is going to have to be an anchor for them. Pick them up when they make mistakes, give them some tough love when needed.
The position requires a high degree of mental toughness and Gay has been through the ringer. A player hated by so many in Steelers’ Nation early in his career. Now, he’s a fan favorite and the team’s most dependable corner.
I am sort of hedging here and stating the obvious. But the difference Gay can make for these players won’t only help the team this year but have a residual effect for many more. From giving them a good foundation to bounce off of and hopefully, years from now, an old cagey veteran like Artie Burns will return the favor to some young buck trying to make his mark.
It’s the Lion King’s Circle Of Life.
Cornerback is just a little less kid friendly.