The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2016 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Never the less, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: William Gay
Experience: 10 Years
It’s somewhat surprising to me that I did not include the nickel cornerback as among the starters when I was going through my initial cycle of exit meetings, but since I failed to do so, the next player on the list will be the nickel cornerback, until proven otherwise, William Gay, who is now the second-most veteran player on defense behind James Harrison.
Gay is one of just four “’08ers” left—the group of Steelers remaining from their 2008 championship season, with just himself and Harrison remaining to represent the defense following Lawrence Timmons’ decision to leave the team in free agency. Ben Roethlisberger and Greg Warren represent the offensive and special teams units.
A 10-year veteran, Gay entered the 2016 season as a starting outside cornerback, and I do not know just how clearly laid out the plan was for him to transition into the slot. Either they were going to force Artie Burns into the starting lineup, and Burns’ progress forced the issue. But Burns was starting on the other side of the bye week, with Gay sitting in the 3-4 defense.
That hasn’t happened at this point for a few years, at least after a couple of games before Gay would inevitably wind up back in the starting lineup. While he is clearly on the downward slope of his career, however, one shouldn’t be ready to run him out of town.
It seems clear to most that the Steelers are looking to transition him out of the slot to find a younger and more athletic option that can provide more bump and run ability, but Gay showed even late into the season that his football IQ can’t be replicated. He jumped several passes against the Browns in the regular season finale.
The Steelers have Gay under contract for two more seasons, and it will be interesting to see how those years play out. Likely the team will want to continue to address the cornerback position, which could result in the team transitioning Gay to a more formal safety role, perhaps as the dime back in their quarter package. Or he’ll simply keep playing in the slot after he shows to be their best option. Always looking for a replacement and never finding one: the William Gay story.