The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Up twelfth in this series is a 2017 preview profile of cornerback William Gay.
Intro: At the start of the 2016 regular season, Gay was entrenched as a starter on the outside. However, as then-rookie cornerback Artie Burns started to progress, he eventually took over as the starter and Gay was effectively used as the team’s nickel defender almost exclusively from the midway point of the season and on. With the Steelers using their sub-package defense extensively once again in 2016, Gay was still on the field quite a bit and wound up playing 80.7% of all regular season defensive snaps. His final stat line was similar to the one he posted in 2015 as he recorded 58 total tackles, seven defensed passes, one interception and one forced fumble.
Current Strengths: Gay’s experience and strong film study habits still show on the field and he still has a better than average ability to function with the play in front of him. He still sniffs out and blows up quick screen passes and generally plays well against the run. He is not afraid to come up and attack bigger pass catchers on short passes and willingly lowers his shoulders to make hits in those instances. He’s a team leader and vocal as far as communication goes in the secondary.
Current Weaknesses: Gay obviously isn’t the player he once was in man coverage and his lack of length and lost quickness now hinders him more than ever. His occasional gambles also work against him more times than not. He can also get over-matched/over-powered by bigger wide receivers.
2017 Outlook: While Gay is in decline at 32 and reasonably so, he’s still a very serviceable depth player both outside and inside. Assuming he makes the final 53 man roster again this year, he might just open the regular season as the starting slot defender. It probably wont be surprising, however, to see Gay start losing snaps to a younger slot cornerback such as Coty Sensabaugh or even Cameron Sutton as the season wears on as 2017 figures to be his final year in the NFL. In short, he might only wind up playing around 60-65% of all defensive snaps in 2017 as long as everybody stays healthy.
2017 Base Salary: $2,000,000
2017 Salary Cap Charge: $2,633,333
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: Zero games missed last season due to injury
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: 844 of 1,046
2016 Stat That Matters: Played in all 16 regular season games for a tenth straight season and has yet to miss an NFL game
|Ben Roethlisberger||Cameron Heyward||Jesse James||James Harrison||Antonio Brown|
|Ryan Shazier||Le’Veon Bell||Mike Mitchell||Sammie Coates||Ross Cockrell|