The Arizona Cardinals aka Pittsburgh West made a move that everyone should have seen coming as soon as now former Steelers cornerback William Gay announced he was going for a visit. Ken Whisenhunt loves to pick off players who previously wore the black ‘n gold, and why not? If you’re going to go after free agents, why not go after a team that’s always in the post season and one that you used to coach for? Many in the Steeler Nation see it as almost a running joke now as nearly every offseason the Cardinals go after somebody on Pittsburgh’s roster.
So, Gay is now a Cardinal and will join his former secondary coach in Pittsburgh, Ray Horton who runs the defense for Whisenhunt’s team. As fans, we can wish him the best of luck because the Steelers secondary is in good hands for 2012 and beyond.
There was no reason to bring back Gay, not only because of the tight salary cap situation the Steelers are facing this year but also because there are 3 young players waiting to burst onto the scene for Carnell Lake’s group. Keenan Lewis was offered a tender by the team as one of their RFA’s, and last year’s rookies Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen are all available and looking to make a name for themselves.
To date, Lewis has not received any significant interests from other teams so he figures to sign his tender and be back with the team for 2012. That’s not a knock on Lewis though, teams just don’t typically go after restricted players no matter how good they are or potentially are. Mike Wallace can attest to that. Personally, I think Lewis is ready to break out and take on a full time starting role after playing as the primary backup to both Ike Taylor and Will Gay last season. Under the instruction and watchful eye of Lake, Lewis showed great improvement in 2011 and looks poised to take the next step.
Lewis who clearly benefited from Carnell Lake’s coaching last year. After a rocky start to his career where he ended up being benched in the preseason, he has certainly come a long way. He was the primary NB in 2011 and seems poised to take over Gay’s job next season, or at least compete for it with Brown and Allen. Signing Lewis to a 1 yr. deal or better yet locking him up long term should be a much higher priority than bringing back Will Gay. Lewis has good size, 6’0 208 lbs. with enough speed to hang with today’s fast wide receivers. A humble guy who’s will to give all the credit to his coaches and teammates, Lewis is someone to watch in 2012.
As far as the rookies go, the Steelers spent 2 draft picks in 2011 to pick up Curtis Brown, Texas and Cortez Allen, Citadel. Both of those players were significant contributors on special teams, and Allen especially was taking on a bigger role in the defense for Dick Lebeau. In fact last year Lebeau said he was very comfortable with putting Allen on the field no matter what the situation. That says a lot about a rookie defensive back no matter who are. Both of these players could be future starters for the Steelers and now with Gay no longer on the team they’ll compete with Lewis. Both players had injury problems in training camp that set them back but as the year went on they progressed nicely. Assuming they can stay healthy, I love the potential of both of them on defense and special teams.
So good luck Will, we wish you the best and I’m sure when the Cards and Steelers meet again in the future; Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, and hopefully Mike Wallace will be happy to reintroduce you to the Steelers.