Devil’s Advocate: Gay Stays Put In The Slot

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Will William Gay open the regular season as the Steelers’ starting slot cornerback?

While Pittsburgh always tries to add depth, the Steelers have over the course of the past couple of months either acquired or regained three players on their roster who are candidates to challenge veteran cornerback William Gay for the role of slot defender.

That is the role that Gay has played primarily over the course of his career, though during the last several seasons he has often been forced to play on the outside due to the Steelers having a lack of a better alternative. Now with solid starters there, and the aging process commencing, his role seems to be limited in the slot barring an emergency, or a cameo at safety. So will he remain in the slot to start the season?

I think it depends on how much man coverage the Steelers want to play, but I suspect that will be contingent on who the opponent that week happens to be. We won’t really get a feel for how much they plan to do this until training camp or even the preseason, and even that doesn’t always prove to be an accurate barometer.

Coty Sensabaugh, their free-agent acquisition, is a solid depth player who can line up at any cornerback spot. He is pretty thin-framed but offers just a bit more size than Gay and has younger legs. Senquez Golson has coveted ball skills and an eye for the slot, at least on paper. Rookie Cameron Sutton was drafted for his experience as a four-year starter, his intelligence, and his man-coverage ability. Any of these three players could at least in theory play.

But it’s not as though Gay has fallen off a cliff, though I’m sure some will counter that he has. What may ultimately unseat him is a move to significantly more man coverage, but for the time being, what he’s really facing is a journeyman, an injured player who hasn’t taken the field in years, and a rookie. Advantage: veteran.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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