While they have reported been here all along this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday officially announced the hirings of former players William Gay and David Johnson to serve as interns on their coaching staff in 2019. Johnson, a tight end, will work with that group, while Gay, a cornerback, will work with the wide receivers.
While you might be surprised to hear Gay is working with the wide receivers instead of the defensive backs, it definitely should not be a surprise to hear that he is working his way into the coaching ranks. This is something that everybody around him already expected.
I wrote in January of last year, as he was still a member of the Steelers—he would later be released and sign with the New York Giants—about how his nickname had already become ‘Coach’. He specifically expressed his interest in not just becoming a coach, but also climbing the ladder.
Over the course of his career, particularly in his later years as his physical abilities began to decline, the long-time defensive back became a true student of the game, and that led to an impressive pick-six streak that was borne largely out of his study habits and knowing opponents’ tendencies, allowing him to jump plays.
When you study tape, and become proficient in it, you of course begin to see and to understand other positions as well. It’s not exactly a huge leap for Gay to go from covering wide receiver for pretty much decades to coaching them and learning how to beat his peers.
One of the players that Gay learned a lot from during his time with the Steelers was veteran Deshea Townsend, who worked a lot with him on the field together. In 2009, Townsend actually replaced Gay in the starting lineup as he struggled that year taking over for Bryant McFadden, who departed in free agency. But he would regain his spot a year later.
Fast forward about a decade, and Gay found himself being coached by Townsend, who served on the Giants’ coaching staff last year. I’m sure that experience also left an impact on him and helped influence his decision to move directly from a playing career to one in coaching.
I even posed the question this past January after Townsend landed a new job in Chicago if Gay would be the next Steelers defensive back to join the coaching ranks, following Carnell Lake, Rod Woodson, and Darren Perry. Ike Taylor, by the way, has also served as an intern with the Steelers in the recent past.
For Gay, however, this appears to be very serious. It’s easy to believe that this is just the start of a long future in the second phase of his football life, and there is reason to have confidence that he will be successful in his endeavors. You don’t play a dozen years in the NFL as a fifth-round pick without knowing what you’re doing fundamentally—and probably what everybody else is doing too.