The 2012 free agency period has started now and we will now wrap up our player by player analysis of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Free Agents. We finish up with our analysis of the Steelers unrestricted free agents by taking a look at cornerback William Gay. Check the links at the bottom of the post to see all of the other Steelers free agents that we have covered this offseason.
Player: William Gay
Experience: 5 Years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
2011 Salary Cap Hit: $575,000.00
2011 Season Breakdown: Gay, the favorite whipping boy of Steeler Nation, was an unrestricted free agent last offseason and received little to no attention on the free agent market. He ultimately ended up signing back with Steelers on a one-year veteran qualifying deal and started the season as the week 1 nickel back against the Baltimore Ravens. Due to the poor play and hamstring problems suffered by left cornerback Bryant McFadden, Gay was thrust into the starting left corner position in week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks and he never looked back. He started the rest of the way and moved inside to the nickel corner spot whenever the Steelers went into their sub-package defenses as Keenan Lewis would come into the game as the left cornerback. Gay finished with 61 combined tackles in the regular season and was on the field for 1030 defensive snaps in total.
Coverage wise Gay was targeted 90 times, allowing 47 receptions and was officially credited with 13 passes defensed. He also totaled 2 interceptions in 2012 with the first coming in week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals as he jumped the route nicely to make the pick that thwarted the Bengals final drive that could have tied the game. He allowed just 3 touchdowns all season long, including the playoffs, with the costliest one being against the Ravens in the closing seconds of the week 9 game. Gay however was likely expecting more help from safety Ryan Clark over the top on the play, but did not receive it. Gay also allowed a touchdown in the AFC Wild Card game against the Denver Broncos. He had tight coverage on the play, but failed to get his head turned away quick enough to find the ball intended for Eddie Royal.
Overall it was a solid bounce back year by Gay after a sub-par 2010 season. He remains a very solid tackler and seemed to be helped quite a bit by the addition of secondary coach Carnell Lake. Gay understands the intricacies of the Dick LeBeau scheme and can play press and off coverage in either man or zone situations. Gay still struggles at times flipping his hips around quickly enough as well as well as his head. He is a great blitzer off the edge when asked and has a great ability of getting into the passing lanes when asked to do so and has a few deflections and misfires to his credit as a result. He will never be know as a shutdown, Pro Bowl corner, but certainly is adequate enough to play the nickel role and be a spot starter on the outside at this point of his career.
Free Agency Outlook: Gay has mentioned a few times since the season ended that he hopes to return to the Steelers in 2012. General Manager Kevin Colbert has mentioned that Gay could likely return as well. The Steelers received good contributions from both Keenan Lewis and Cortez Allen in 2011 and Ike Taylor, outside of the AFC Wild Card game, had a very solid season as well. Rookie Curtis Brown did not get a chance to contribute on defense, but it figures he will see that change in his second season. McFadden was sent packing after the season, so the Steelers could use experienced depth on the roster in the form of Gay, who can also still contribute on special teams as well. Gay is unrestricted once again and he could see a little more attention than he did last offseason thanks to his improved play in 2011. Gay keeps himself in top physical condition and trains with Taylor down in South Florida.
As I mentioned early, Gay really does not want to change teams and I think he would likely be willing to return again on a one-year qualifying deal with the Steelers, even if he should get a slightly better offer elsewhere. The Steelers could do a lot worse than having Gay back in the fold to complete the transition to the younger defensive backs on the roster. It would not surprise me one bit to see him back in the black and the gold for one more season and start week 1 in sub-packages at the nickel spot.
Other 2012 Steelers Free Agent Player Analysis
Mike Wallace – Restricted Free Agent
Keenan Lewis – Restricted Free Agent
Doug Legursky – Restricted Free Agent
Ramon Foster – Restricted Free Agent
David Johnson – Restricted Free Agent
Ryan Mundy – Restricted Free Agent
Jamon Meredith – Restricted Free Agent
Jerricho Cotchery – Unestricted Free Agent
Max Starks – Unestricted Free Agent
Mewelde Moore – Unestricted Free Agent
Byron Leftwich – Unestricted Free Agent
Charlie Batch – Unestricted Free Agent
Dennis Dixon – Unestricted Free Agent
Daniel Sepulveda – Unestricted Free Agent
Trai Essex – Unestricted Free Agent
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