What The Return Of William Gay To The Steelers Really Means

Although the transaction might not be made official until the start of the new league year, free agent cornerback William Gay has indicated on Twitter Sunday afternoon that he is returning to Pittsburgh after one season with the Arizona Cardinals. Gay left last offseason via free agency as an unrestricted free agent, but was released on Friday by the Cardinals, who needed to slash salary cap dollars for 2013.

The return of Gay to Pittsburgh is an obvious fit. He most likely only got a one-year deal for the minimum and it more than likely wasn\’t guaranteed. He adds experienced depth on the roster at the cornerback position and will be special team contributor assuming he makes the final 53 man roster.

So what does the return of Gay mean for the other cornerbacks?

Many are thinking that Gay\’s return signifies that unrestricted free agent Keenan Lewis is all but gone now. I disagree. Lewis certainly could wind up leaving for greener pastures, but I doubt that the Steelers have given up on re-signing him. General manager Kevin Colbert has said for some time now that many, if not all, of the unrestricted free agents that they wish to re-sign will be allowed to test free agency so that their market value could be established. Colbert and Omar Khan more than likely have a price in their head that they are willing to pay Lewis and they will not get in a bidding war with another team for his services. For all we know, they might already have a deal in place with Lewis. One thing is for certain, we will know within two weeks or so whether or not Lewis will be back in Pittsburgh in 2013.

Should Lewis ultimately be re-signed then Gay provides depth as possibly the fourth or fifth cornerback on the roster. Should Lewis leave via free agency then Gay will more than likely compete with Curtis Brown for the nickel cornerback position with the loser becoming the dime back. Gay has experience playing both inside and outside and the Steelers really could have used that last year down the stretch due to the injuries suffered by Ike Taylor, Cortez Allen and Lewis.

What does the return of Gay mean to the younger cornerbacks on the roster? At this point you can consider Brown, Josh Victorian and DeMarcus Van Dyke, assuming he is tendered as an exclusive free agent, as all really being put on notice. Not like they weren\’t beforehand, but now that notice has a name and a face attached to it. None of the three are guaranteed a roster spot at this point, whether Lewis returns or not. That should set the stage for a pretty good training camp battle.

So what does the return of Gay mean as far as the draft goes? I really don\’t think that it changes a thing. For starters, I don\’t think that the Steelers had plans on drafting a cornerback in the first four rounds before Gay was brought back. Now that Gay has returned, there is no pressure to add a cornerback in the later rounds either. Could they still draft one? Sure, but I think the odds were low of them drafting one prior to Gay returning and even lower now.

Considering the price that was likely paid, Gay was a no-brainer signing. It is not the first time that a player has left for a season only to return to provide much needed depth. Larry Foote, Bryant McFadden and Antwaan Randle El all returned in 2010 after one season away with another team and the Steelers made it to the Super Bowl that season.

Don\’t make more out of Gay\’s return to Pittsburgh than what it really is. It\’s a depth signing for the cornerback position and is insurance in case Lewis ends up elsewhere.

  • mghjr88

    Definitely will be interesting to see how this all plays out

  • LucasY59

    at first I thought that the Gay singing was not very good news. due to depth (and the lack thereof when Taylor and Lewis were hurt) I am beggining to think it makes sense as long as the contract is for close to the minimum and there is no cap penalty if the young CB’s beat him out for the roster spot. C. Brown is the safest IMO he’s been solid on ST’s and with some more work this offseason could be the #4, I think Van Dyke is a good ST gunner because of his speed (just needs to get better about the penalties) he also has upside as a outside corner because of his speed and height. I think Victorian is the one that may lose his spot to Gay, or both may not make it if Lewis is (hopefully) resigned.

    I guess it’s a good problem to have 6+ cb’s that are good enough to be on the roster (dont think they will keep more than 5) also looks like CB will not be a draft pick this year

  • zyzak

    This is really a no brainer, he knows the system, and is a good NB. Plus he does well on special teams

  • WilliamSekinger

    Resign Lewis. Gay has always been a very good nickel back.

  • Clint Martin

    at minimum I think it is 700,000 for him. And he isn’t signed. Agents can’t negotiate new contracts to new teams until the 9th of March this year is a new rule 72 hrs before the 12th.
    If he gets signed I feel this is money poorly spent.He can not play outside he was terrible he is only a nickel back at best.

  • TJimmy

    Maybe other free agents will take note and learn from Foote, Gay and others…. the grass isn’t really so green on the other side of the fence. It’s just that the Steelers get more out of their players than most teams are able to.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I disagree on both parts. Your first statement is only true if the player is not waived. Gay was in fact waived.

    This money is not wasted at all especially if Lewis is resigned and it isn’t guaranteed. In addition if Lewis does walk he provides a slot guy with some experience.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    The cornerback position is crowded now. Can any of them switch to safety?

  • steeltown

    If K.Lewis is re-signed and Gay is ultimately signed, Victorian and King are as good as gone.. I see Gay and C.Brown in a huge battle for the #3 or #4 spot (pending the K.Lewis situation) also Van Dyke could be seeing the door as well, though I think he has some upside…. I agree, it would be a good problem to have. No need to draft a CB this year

  • steeltown

    Did you see what happened at the end of last year when we started Curtis Brown and Victorian.. not pretty…. I’d take Gay over Victorian, J.King or Van Dyke at this point, its good depth

  • Garrett Hunt

    At the very least, it will add more competition to the bottom end CB spots which will be great to see what they can really bring. Could be a show up or go home type deal for DVD

  • Jollyrob68

    He can be signed now because he was cut. Those whose contract have expired can’t negotiate yet.

  • walter mason

    Gay improved in his last year with the Steelers. He was good. Welcome back.

  • Jollyrob68

    Victorian got better every week. He was horrible against Dallas, his first game. Remember Victorian made the play for Cortez to intercept the ball. As for Brown, he needs to just relax. He’s too hyped up.

  • steeltown

    Signed a 3year deal… this is more about C.Brown than it is K.Lewis

  • Ray Lewis

    Lets put the fact that he knows the system aside, William Gay is a pretty decent CB. The only downfall is he’s been beat a few times when the game had been on the line (and thats hard for fans to forget), but so has Ike Taylor. I remember last season when everyone was like cut Ike cut Ike… Well you all saw what the situation was like after he got injured. (Not taking anything away from Kennan’s amazing performance).
    If Gay isn’t a good outside CB to you, thats understandable. Playing inside? That boy can cover grass. Cortez Allen played pretty good when he played outside last year. I think he had a great show against the Bengals. If Kennan doesnt come back, which at this point, there isnt too much the steelers can do about that, then we have a pretty good guy inside (Gay or Allen), depending on who wins the job outside. If Kennan does come back, then heck we have someone good for depth purposes. So easy with the stupid comments. Its a business and winning is all that matters!
    Welcome back William Gay, I’m excited to see you do the pregame dance a few times!

  • Hey, his 22 jersey happens to be available thanks to a certain RB that could not realize the opportunity given to him.

  • JohnnyV1

    As the Steelers balance the salary cap books, I hope Keenan Lewis is not a casualty. I would much prefer the group of Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and William Gay going forward for the next 3 years to group of Taylor, Allen & Gay.

  • steeltown


  • Shannon Stephenson

    I think Victorian has potential. To me he is better than both Brown and Van Dyke

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I agree 100% those other guys need a little more maturing first IMO

  • Fu-Schnickens

    Yeah, it’s a no brainer to re-sign him – in other words we’ve got no brain for re-signing him. And the logic that he’s cheap so…..why not? Here’s why….even a single dollar used to sign the guy is a dollar wasted because he’s that bad. Geezus, what in the hello are these guys thinking?

  • i. feel steelers should have, drafted. astandout saftey instead of ///. hello. steelers are cheap dont pay their players like wallace, ask him. not all mikes falt the steelers lost get new coach.