Who knows what the future holds for William Gay, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 11-year veteran cornerback, who has spent all but one of those years with the team that drafted him back in 2007 in the fifth round. Gay was the first cornerback that Mike Tomlin ever drafted, and he remains with the team, still a contributor.
Over that span of time, he played virtually any role imaginable for him. He was the special teams ace early on in his career. During his second season, he rotated in the slot, and then after Bryant McFadden was injured, toyed with starting, en route to the Super Bowl.
He has since that time been the starting nickel defender, the starting outside guy, the injury emergency starter, and most recently has worked as the team’s dime back after they added Mike Hilton to the mix as their primary slot defender in 2017.
In spite of his reduced playing time—he was a starter on the outside as recently as the early portions of the 2016 seasons—Gay remained a contributor, recording 19 tackles with an interception and two forced fumbles.
But he is 33 years old now, and there doesn’t seem to be much room for him. Artie Burns and Joe Haden are starting on the outside. There is Hilton in the slot, and Cameron Sutton will probably take over the dime role. Brian Allen is there, and they will probably draft another cornerback.
Even though he has another year on his contract, it’s easy to imagine that he will be released, if not now, then in the summer. But he doesn’t really think about that. “I didn’t even know if I was going to be drafted”, he said of the start of his career 11 years ago. “So to be standing here 11 years, it’s a blessing”.
Gay has previously said that he wants to get into coaching when his career is over. The other players and the coaches even call him ‘Coach’ during practice. But he is not quite done focusing on playing until he is told otherwise.
“As you get older, when you get into the offseason, you take it as time to just sit back and just release all the pressure from the ongoing, watching film, the intense prep, getting ready for a Sunday game. You just sit back and breathe a little bit”, he said about his decompression time.
It will be interesting to see how quickly the front office wants to move on Gay. It’s likely that they will release Coty Sensabaugh, whom they signed during free agency a year ago, after he was passed over on the depth chart by Sutton and was ultimately a healthy scratch by the end.
While not substantial, they could save over $1 million in cap space after displacement by releasing him. If he is not going to make the team, it would make sense to do it early, and it would give him the opportunity to try to find another team. Or start thinking about his coaching career.