The 2016 season is unfortunately over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are now embarking upon their latest offseason journey, heading back to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, formerly known and still referred to as the ‘South Side’ facility of Heinz Field. While the postseason is now behind us, there is plenty left to discuss.
And there are plenty of questions left unanswered as well. The offseason is just really the beginning phase of the answer-seeking process, which is lasts all the way through the Super Bowl for teams fortunate enough to reach that far.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring the developments in the offseason as they develop, and beyond, looking for the answers as we look to evaluate the makeup of the Steelers as they try to navigate their way back to the Super Bowl, after reaching the AFC Championship game last season for the first time in more than half a decade.
Question: Is William Gay’s time in the starting lineup at an end?
Over the course of the past four seasons, I really don’t think it can be argued that veteran cornerback William Gay was not a very substantial part of whatever success the Steelers have had in the secondary. He has been the team’s best cornerback over that stretch, and has continued to play well, but there are those who believe that there are signs of decline now at the age of 32.
Gay was never drafted to be a starter as a fifth-round pick in 2007. He eventually worked his way up the depth chart, however, largely through attrition and perseverance. The fact that he has never missed a game in his career is certainly another hat in his feather as well.
But as reports indicated yesterday, the Steelers were susceptible in their attempts to play in a man coverage scheme against the Patriots on Sunday in part due to Gay’s struggles in that capacity, which resulted in the defense giving up some big plays.
He has shown quite a bit of veteran savvy over the course of the season, which is something that I attempted to demonstrate in my last film study of his performance against the Browns in the season finale, I believe it was.
But there are also times where it appears that he can’t keep up, and that it might be best for the team if he begins to transition into more of a depth role rather than being their starting slot defender. That may have already happened this year had Senquez Golson been healthy.
Of course, there is no depending upon Golson as a given. That is simply not an option for a player who has spent his first two seasons on injured reserve. But I do wonder if the team might not start to view Gay as a liability against today’s slot receivers and begin looking for another option to pair with their starting cornerbacks.