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Pittsburgh Steelers Will Be OK With William Gay at Cornerback

In the coming weeks, a veteran defensive back with long hair and a nose for the ball will make game-changing plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It’s not like William Gay hasn’t done it before

Sure, the Steelers will miss Ike Taylor for the next couple of months as he recovers from a broken forearm. But Gay will be starting in his place, and that’s not a bad thing for the Steelers.

Gay isn’t the shutdown corner that Taylor has been throughout his career. Without Taylor, the Steelers’ quest for One for the Thumb still would be unfulfilled.

However, there are games in recent years the Steelers wouldn’t have won without Gay.

If it wasn’t for the 29-year-old Gay in Week 1, the Steelers would have gulped the bitter cocktail of the biggest blown lead in franchise history mixed with the first loss at home to the Cleveland Browns in 11 years.

After the Browns came all the way back from a 27-3 deficit to tie it 27-27 in the fourth quarter, they were on the fringes of field goal range with 4:40 left. They were at the Steelers’ 35-yard line, but Gay broke up a third-down pass and forced the Browns to punt.

The Browns’ offense finally was collared on its last possession. Gay broke up another pass on second-and-16 from the Steelers 14, then tackled Andrew Hawkins for a five-yard loss on third down to force a three-and-out with 59 seconds left and set up the Steelers’ game-winning field goal.

It wasn’t the first time Gay stood between the Browns and a win over the Steelers. With the Steelers leading the Browns 13-3 in the third quarter last season at Cleveland, Gay strip-sacked Jason Campbell. Will Allen picked up the fumble and returned it to the Cleveland 4, and the Steelers soon had a 20-3 lead. Gay made it 27-3 with a 21-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter.

Five weeks earlier, Gay prevented two probable touchdowns in the second half of the Steelers’ 19-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field. The Steelers improved to 2-4 with that win after an 0-4 start.

Gay might not dart this way and that after an interception the way Troy Polamalu does, but his narrative as a Steeler has taken a lot of twists and turns since he was drafted in the fifth round out of Louisville in 2007.

As far back as 2008, Gay made an imprint in the Steelers-Ravens rivalry. He intercepted Joe Flacco in the end zone on the game’s final play to preserve the Steelers’ ¬†division-clinching, 13-9 win at Baltimore. They went on to win their sixth Super Bowl that year.

It would be three years before Gay’s next interception. During that time, passes from opposing quarterbacks weren’t the only thing coming his way. He also was targeted with a lot of criticism.

Gay was the scapegoat for the Steelers’ 31-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV after the 2010 season. But in 2011, he helped them get back to the playoffs with two game-saving interceptions.

At Cincinnati, Gay picked off Andy Dalton in Steelers territory with less than three minutes left in a 24-17 victory. Earlier in the game, he tipped a pass that Lawrence Timmons intercepted.

In Week 14, the Steelers clung to a 7-3 lead at home against Cleveland when Gay intercepted Colt McCoy in the end zone.

Gay sure has provided a lot of bang for the buck with his four career interceptions as a Steeler.

He had two more interceptions in 2012, when his career took a detour in Arizona. Gay is just one of many Steelers to go to Arizona. Only bishops become Cardinals more often than former Steelers.

Gay was cut in March of 2013 after one former Steelers offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, took over for another, Ken Whisenhunt, as head coach.

So Gay returned to Pittsburgh in 2013 and the Steelers were 6-5 in games he started. He was instrumental as the Steelers found their way out of an 0-4 abyss and came within a hair of the playoffs.

The 2-1 Steelers are in no such predicament this season as Gay prepares to add to his 48 career starts as a Steeler as well as his streak of 115 consecutive regular-season games played. That’s the longest active streak among NFL cornerbacks.

Gay might not be able to do everything Taylor did in his prime. But his ball skills are a little better. The Steelers forced two turnovers in their 37-19 win over Carolina last week after forcing none in their first two games.

With Gay on the field more often, maybe those turnovers will keep coming.

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2 comments

  1. Ass Hole

    good call idiot…

  2. Jason

    This team truly sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If you can’t beat Tampa Bay you might as well give it up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is time for some major changes in this organization!!!!!!!!!! I love Dick Lebeau, but it is time for a change

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