The Pittsburgh Steelers are fortunate to have some of the longest-tenured members of the coaching staff in all of the NFL. Though some long-time presences are moving on or shifting to different roles, there are still some who have been here as long as Mike Tomlin, even if in different jobs, namely Randy Fichtner, James Daniel, and Keith Butler. John Mitchell no longer has an on-field role, but he is another one.
One other member of the coaching staff, too, has been here about as long as Tomlin, and that would be William Gay. Only, he was here previously as a cornerback. Gay has been in with the team this year as a coaching intern working with the wide receivers following a 12-year career.
And Ficthner was among those who had to worry about going up against him in practice every day. Now the offensive coordinator, he talked about having Gay in with the coaches this year and working with him on the staff following yesterday’s practice.
It’s great. That’s a total contradiction to how I know William. We’re glad to have him. He’s got a lot of energy. He wants to learn. He wants to be a coach. And what better opportunity to kind of pull the whole thing together, learn maybe some things from an offensive perspective that might make him a defensive coach if he so chooses that’s where he wants to go? If he wants to stay on offense, then he’s going to be a good, young coach.
Even before he retired, Gay had earned the nickname ‘Coach’ on the field. playing for the Steelers originally between 2007 to 2010, he left in free agency in 2011, but returned for the 2012 season after being released by the Arizona Cardinals, and he remained here again until he was released in 2018.
During that second stint, he had transformed himself into a very cerebral player, which helped to extend his career as he shifted from outside starter to slot defender to dime defender, and even mixing in some snaps dropping back at safety.
Working with the wide receivers presents an entirely new perspective, but of course it’s not a foreign concept to see one who played a certain role in his playing career go on to coach its opposite. After all, Tomlin himself was a wide receiver at the college level, and started his coaching career working with that group, before rising in the ranks as a defensive backs coach.
It’s interesting that some have taken Tomlin to task for failing to develop a coaching tree, but we’ve actually seen that among the players who’ve worked under him, with Gay just being the latest, among the others who have transitioned from playing to coaching are Nick Eason, Larry Foote, Deshea Townsend, and Byron Leftwich, the latter of whom is now the offensive coordinator for Bruce Arians—who coached under Tomlin.