The Top Three Apologies Fans Owe To Their Steelers

By Michael K Reynolds

It’s often said that Steelers fans are among the most knowledgeable and savvy in the league, but it doesn’t mean we’re perfect. Alright, let’s face it. Most of us are, at best, highly experienced amateurs.

So we’re certainly not above admitting when we’re wrong. Here are the top three apologies fans owe to their Steelers.

William Gay is a quality player

One of the most maligned of the Steelers is cornerback William Gay. When his return to the Steelers was announced in the off-season it certainly didn’t trigger ticker tape parades. And when the pre-season started it seemed when every breakdown of the secondary occurred, number 22 was there looking guilty at the scene of the crime.

While the fans were raising their flaming torches and pitchforks, the Steelers top brass and his fellow players stood firmly behind Gay, insisting he was a strong player and a valuable member of the defense.

So we consider it a pleasant surprise to admit we had it all wrong. It’s true, they are not about to name an island after him. But, William Gay has played a significant role in the Steelers’ turnaround and has been as solid a performer on the defense as any other.

William, please accept our apology, and welcome home.

Cameron Heyward is definitely not a bust

Keeping in mind the 3-4 defensive ends in the Dick LeBeau scheme will never get the Hollywood spotlight as do players on other teams, Cameron Heyward has proven his value as a penetrating force on the line. Esteemed colleagues such as Brett Keisel have been touting Heyward’s strengths all along, but we were slow to buy into it.

The jury is definitely out about Ziggy Hood (and they may have actually the building) but Cameron Heyward deserves to be judged on his own merits. Based on what we’re seeing with Heyward’s opportunity as a starter, he may well be on his way to becoming a valuable anchor to the defense for years to come.

Kevin Colbert’s best days are not behind him

With the state of parity in the NFL the draft has become the defining moment of ongoing excellence for teams. As fans, we’ve been spoiled with outstanding Steelers drafts which have allowed the team to be able to “reload” instead of “rebuild.”

But serious and legitimate concerns bubbled to the service with the paucity of talent acquired and developed on the Steelers draft days of recent. There is no question it has left this year’s version of the Steelers paper-thin in depth and uncomfortably reliant on inexperienced young talent.

Yet, regardless of the missteps of the past, there is no denying that Kevin Colbert and the Steelers organization struck gold this year. The 2013 draft may not only rescue this season, but produce the foundation of strength for years to come.

Although Jarvis Jones is not racking up the sacks yet, there is no questioning his flash of talent. Keeping in mind that outside linebackers are typically given a few years to mature into the Steelers’ system, he is well ahead of schedule to someday be on the list of great ones.

Le’Veon Bell is the real deal and has already begun to transform the running game. Marcus Wheaton will settle in as at least a number two caliber receiver and Shamarko Thomas is already splashing on tackles and coverage. Vince Williams is beginning to look like a steal as a sixth round acquisition.

What other apologies are due?

Again, it’s too early to get excited about the 2013 Steelers season just yet, and the team is definitely a work in process. But there is enough evidence to give credit where it’s due. What other apologies do the fans owe the Steelers? That Todd Haley can coach? That Ben Roethlisberger can release the ball quickly? That Guy Whimper is a legitimate NFL back-up? What say you Steelers fans?

About the Author

Michael K. Reynolds

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of
Ireland series.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I’d apologize to Whimper. That’s about it.

  • Dom

    I think we all owe Todd an apology really.

  • Dr. Doom

    I will man up
    1. Todd Haley-I wanted him fired during the bye week, all the offense has done is improve every week.
    2. I wanted Decastro benched after he blew Pouncey’s knee out glad they don’t listen to any of us.
    3. I also owe Dick Lebeau an apology the Defense is getting back on track.

  • JohnnyV1

    I apologize to Marcus GIlbert & Lamarr Woodley. They have played better so far than I thought they would before the season. But we have a ways to go, so hopefully they get/stay healthy and continue to play well.

    While I never did write that Kevin Colbert’s best days were behind him, I do disagree with a few moves this offseason, still do. Great 2013 draft though. Only selection I questioned was WR Brown Rd 6. And Rd 4 to take a QB, not who they picked, just the position.

  • steeltown

    I’d have to apologize to Whimper, alteast based on his performance yesterday

  • Jason

    I’ve always supported Haley so I’m one of few who wouldn’t need to apologize to him. I thought DeCastro looked overmatched and was close to calling him a full fledged bust, my apologies. I also thought this line as a whole could possibly be the worst ever and though they have a ways to go clearly they have raised their level of play, my apologies. I’ve also been a longtime Woodley critic and though I’m not quite ready to swallow my pride and apologize I’m close.

  • Dan

    I don’t believe there’s been over-bashing of Gay, Heyward or Colbert. Gay does have consistency problems. I would have been nice to see Heyward come along more quickly. And Colbert does merit some criticism (what GM doesn’t?). At 2-4 I don’t think it’s time to break out the apologies. That being said, some compliments may be in order, particularly for improvment by the o-line. I think the team has improved since they’ve stopped spending so much time playing ping pong.

  • 20Stoney

    Whimper is mine too……hopefully he keeps it up!

  • I’ve been saying Gay is unfairly bashed for a while. I’ve also been on the “Heyward should start over Hood” bandwagon. However, I DO think Colbert deserves quite a bit of the criticism he has received. Yes, this year looks to be a great draft. We also have multiple recent years with 2 or fewer players still on the roster. 2 wins DOES NOT excuse that.

  • If he keeps it up, I will be in that boat also. I want to see more than one game from him first.

  • PA2AK

    meh….they all deserve it… they’re still 2-4 after an 8-8 season. Only time (and lots of it) will tell if they also deserve an apology. Win’s will get you a lot of apologies…but you need more than just 10 in 2 seasons if you work in Pittsburgh.

  • Gay wasn’t even on the 8-8 team…

    However, I agree, we expect a higher level of play.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    I had questions with Todd Haley during training camp; is he going to adapt to the currently roster OR rather when the team are at their fullest strength? (Heath Miller, Matt Spaeth, Le’Veon Bell) and now its became more apparent that it is the latter. I didn’t reacted like many Steelers *coughs bandwagon coughs* fans which is panic.

    Looking at a whole AFC North rosters, Steelers and Bengals are easily the best with Steelers topping Bengals with Big Ben (he’s easily better than Andy Dalton, no question) however dropping 4 games is inexcusable. We will find out in next 5 games if this personnels decision-making have costed us the playoff or not. Given, our defense had its faults too but mostly toward the offense without specific personnels.

  • r4kolb

    Whoa…..hold on Nellie….we are 2-4 and are in last place in our division correct? Let’s not start to get like Eagles fans and think we are going to the Super Bowl after 2 wins in a row. Long season ahead. Heck I’m anxious to see if we can beat Da Raiders next week. One good potential draft from Colbert does not a career make. As far as Gay goes he used to get beat up because he used to get beat a lot. As he was beat vs Ravens for what should have been 6. Heyward is now in his 3rd year and he damn well better be playing better. I’m still not ready to name him the second coming of Arron Smith. It’s early and there still has been more bad then good w this team, let’s wait until we at least get over .500 to start handing out apologies or awards. Slow your roll MR, slow your roll.


    I must take issue on the Heyward comment. I know of not one Steelers fan who thought Heyward was a bust as a result of watching him play. We all just assumed that if he couldn’t beat out a bust like Ziggy, just how bad was he?

  • kakello34

    I’m sorry I called Big Ben a glorified Trent Dilfer!

  • CW

    I’m sorry I thought that signing Guy Whimper was a huge mistake.

  • PA2AK

    was the point still lost on you? I was high on Gay coming back this year when it was being viewed as the worst move in decades. Still…the all deserve some criticism. I bet if you ask any one of them (aside from maybe Sanders) they would all say the same.

  • PA2AK

    someone on here said “2 wins DOES NOT excuse that.”…that about sums it up for me.

  • Oh, I got your point, and I agree. Was just pointing out that Gay in particular should be judged on this year alone, where he has been quite solid. Yes, it is only two wins, and yes, we expect better, but his play has been WAY above the line that his critics portray.

  • Brendon Glad

    If we are just talking about a one game apology, then I guess mine would be to the Offensive Line and Special Teams. I’ve never really criticized the people you listed above much at all.
    But I’ve long said that Steelers Special Teams only “blow” games or get a “push”…and never actually lead the charge in winning a game. And yesterday the Special Teams made 2 excellent kick-returns…one in a crucial moment that actually involved good blocking too…not just individual effort by the returner…
    And they also had a perfect chance to blow the game on the surprise onside…but they came up aces by remaining alert and actually may have saved the game. So good job Special teams. I’m marking this one down as a game where you carried the torch from the front of the team instead of dragging it down from the back. I like this way a lot better. I’d rather be happy than correct.

  • I’ve talked to a few that thought he was turning out to be a bad pick. Mostly because like you said, why couldn’t he beat out Hood. I think it is clear now that was due to coaching decisions more than ability.

  • Brendon Glad

    Oh, I’d be remiss not to mention Shaun Shuisham…not as an apology…(because he’s been clutch since day 1…thus I’ve loved him from day 1)…but just to be mentioned as a part of the special-teams victory yesterday. He’s sometimes been the only bright spot…but I should never take him for granted. So thanks Shaun. Keep up the great work.

  • Dr. Doom

    You should be, you should send him a card that’s fighting words

  • Jonas

    Why did you questioned the pick of WR J. Brown?

    No offense, just asking – a big receiver was a not so bad move in my opinion..

  • Brendon Glad

    That’s kind of how I felt too…but I’ll play nice today. They did look a lot more like a good team than at any other point. My big apologies will come if they make the playoffs. Because that still would stun me…but I sure would love to make that apology. I’ll fall all over myself doing it if they can pull that off. Yesterday actually got me thinking about it for the first time…so hopefully they can keep improving.

  • T R

    well i was ready to put cement shoes on Danny Smith or whatever the Special teams coach was.. because doing preseason and first couple games.. the ST play was awful.. it has got consideraly well in coverage now a few more big splash place in run back and we be well on our way… Might have to find another punter thou..

  • Nolrog

    Colbert’s drafting has been poor. The fact that he may have done well in 2013 doesn’t yet make up for the 2008 debacle and his high round misses.

  • JohnnyV1

    Jonas, I agree, a big body receiver was perfectly fine and a need. Was just questioning the selection of Brown at that spot, not the selection of a WR. Brown, and many other WR’s (with higher ratings) were available as Rookie Free Agents.

  • Eric

    I agree that the 2013 draft is awesome, but before Colbert gets put back on the pedestal, lets keep in mind that no one from the 2008 draft class is on the team and only the often injured David Johnson and first rounder Evander Hood from the 2009 draft are on the team right now. It is hard not to blame last years problems and the first quarter of this years problems on the lack of talent that joined the team 4 and 5 years ago. The Jury is still out on Worlids, Sylvester and Dwyer from 2010 and Adams & Gilbert since then.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I was going to make a comment similar to that but you did a fine job so i will leave it at that.

  • Nolrog

    The jury isn’t out on Worilds. We had to spend a first round pick to get a replacement for him, before his rookie contract ended. He won’t be back. Not sure the jury is out on Sylvester and Dwyer either. We spent a 2 to upgrade the RB and wasn’t Sylvester cut in the off season and brought back? I don’t think any of them have any long term futures with the team.

  • Nolrog

    I think Lebeau has done a very good job with the defense, considering he doesn’t have much to work with.

  • CrazyTerry

    The team is still 2-4. No apologies needed. Just not as awful as we thought the team would be .
    I never hated Gay and thought there was a useful role for him as a nickel back though I am surprised at the high level of play he exhibited in yesterday’s game at CB. He was very good. The same can’t be said for Ryan Clark who has underperformed.
    People were in two minds when they were bashing the heyward pick. Some of us were getting impatient with him, but we were also more impatient with the coaching staff for giving hood so much playing time over Heyward last year even though it became obvious Hood is a backup quality player. So we were wondering why they weren’t trying to develop Heyward faster. I personally wanted to see him get more playing time. Coaches were a year too late, but better late than never.
    As far as Whimper, we shall see how he does long term, but what he showed at RT exceeded my wildest dreams. We still need a decent backup at LT.
    I woudl like to see Derek Moye continue to get opportunities despite his drop. Remember how the GB WRs were dropping catches in SB 45. Some of those receivers turned out well.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I thought Mesko was going to be great for us and it turns out he isn’t any better than Butler. Maybe time to find a late round guy in the draft.

  • Eric

    Sylvester and Dwyer were both cut this year. I was trying to be nice.

  • Nolrog

    Picking Landry Jones still has me scratching my head. Considering where we are in Ben’s career, and the fact we got a decent back up in FA, I think pick could have been much better used. In fact, I think Ben will be on the team longer than Jones.

  • CrazyTerry

    Not really and I say this as someone who wanted Todd to replace Arians. It’s good that Todd is finally getting it. But it took him too many mistake prone games to get to this point. Again, I was one of the first to praise the turnaround in offense this season when I was commenting on the Chicago game. So my natural instinct is to hope for the best in Haley. I am sick of all the comparisons to Arians as if Arians did something special here. That Arians offense did not put up many points against the Ravens and needed some defnsive turnovers to get half their points.

  • Eric

    Thanks Shannon.

  • Jeff

    I don’t really think every fan had these views on the above. I think the “fire haley” was the loudest of these at it’s peak though.

    Agree that any doubt in Colbert has been over the top…

  • MC

    Yes great article!
    Especially the points about Heyward and Gay. Steeler fans have been the most irrational with those two players in my opinion. Heyward is here to stay I tells ya!

  • Bell Cow

    It’s hard not to question some of Colbert’s recent draft classes and decisions. Hood, Worlids, Curtis Brown, Gilbert, and Adams were high round draft picks that haven’t lived up to our expectations and some of those guys will not be re-signed after their rookie contract. We’ll ignore the Rashard Mendenhall and Limas Sweed draft … I understood they couldn’t afford Wallace, but I was disappointed they didn’t include Keenan Lewis in their future plans.

    However, I do agree this last draft class has the potential to be special. I’m confident about their future outlook If they can draft well again next year and these young players continue to stay healthy and improve.

  • Christopher Wilkes

    I’m not there yet. I didn’t like Ben in the shotgun on 3rd and short on the first drive, and although the wildcat formation was cool I thought it was dumb to run it on consecutive plays. Also, the best play of the game was the shovel pass to Heath and Ben said that was his idea not Todd’s.

  • AndyR34

    I’m not ready to anoint the 2013 draft class just yet. I’m not certain I see any All-pro talent on it and I fear the only reason so many rookies are playing/starting is because the rest of our ‘talent’ is so poor right now. Let’s check back in in 4-5 years and see how this group fares over that time period.

  • AndyR34

    I think the jury is still out on Guy Whimper. Undoubtedly, thr Ravens were preparing to play against Marcus Whimp…er, Gilbert and not Abdullah The Butcher. Let’s see if he can sustain it for a few games…if Gilbert is out that long.

  • Josh

    I will not apologize to William Gay because he did what the Steelers fans wanted him to do; improve overall. I never criticized him this season because of his few mistakes made. He hit rock bottom when the cardinals cut him and he realized he needed to improve. The Steelers fans used to dislike him because his skillset was not par with the rest of the Steelers D at the time. Now he has improved alot and is having his best year of football. William deserved the criticism coming back to Pittsburgh this year because his past. Being a Steelers fan, I am glad to not point the finger at Gay any longer and very happy he has turned his career around.

  • alex

    always loved the return of ex-steelers, cause there is no other NFL system as specific as the Steelers D under Lebeau…welcome back Gay!

    Cam and Worilds just needed more starting time to shine, period!

    life and professional sports are a crap shoot…your success is basically 50-50…
    if youre actually that successful, youre good…thanks Colbert!

  • Mike.H

    ” I apologize, there will be no wedding! ” — Said Teddy’s Thai father in Hangover.

    I apologize even tho Steelers are looking up, they are the only win/defeat Minnesota Vikings logged after 7 games!. 🙁

  • Mike.H

    Hangover II.

  • sean mcmartin

    Apology to Gay. He has stepped up his game.

  • HiVul

    Personally I’ve been critical of Colbert and these last two wins aren’t yet enough to change my opinion. It’s too early to judge the 2013 draft class so that really wasn’t my problem with his work. For me I just don’t think he’s done an elite caliber job assembling talent in the draft classes over the last 5 years.

  • Nolrog

    Colbert has done well in the 3rd round and later. I agree, AB was a great pick in the 6th. I think Beachum was a fantastic pick as well. Well above 7th round quality there. Even Gay was a good pick in the 5th. Even Wallace and Keenan Lewis were good picks; we just couldn’t afford to keep them.

    But too many high round misses I think – Ziggy, Worilds, Adams (so far), Ta’Amu, Limas Sweed, Mendenhall, Bruce Davis . . . . all provide returns below, or far below, the round where they were drafted and 2008, which should be part of the core right now, was an unmitigated disaster.

  • Nolrog

    I agree. Too soon to make any real judgments on the class. But so far, I’m happy with what I see.

  • joed32

    If you look at other teams past drafts you will find similar drafts where no one is left or maybe one especially if you go back 5 years.

  • Eric

    Yes, but we are not other teams. We are the Pittsburgh Steelers. We are known for getting it right in the draft year after year. We do not take in free agents. We build our own stars.

  • Luke Shabro

    I understand what you’re saying about the record. Believe me, I get it. But everyone beats the hell out of Colbert right now. Maybe he’s not perfect but he’s still a top 5-10 GM. He’s whiffed on a few but I challenge you to show me a team that hasn’t whiffed at all. I feel like his biggest fault was the extensions of Harrison and Colon but Harrison was playing at an extremely high level at that time. (Colon was hot garbage and I never understood that extension). Colbert said after last season that the record was indicative of a team that needed some change. They have changed, maybe not all for the better, but could you look at last year’s team and see them being much better than this team? No. But this year’s team has something last year’s team didn’t, youth to build the franchise around. I’m probably far too optimistic but I feel by next year we could be a contender again. We need to draft an OT (again…), a big body WR, another DE, NT depth (possibly), safety and corner depth and I feel like we could be in the serious hunt again.

  • Eric

    I checked the Steelers draft history going back to 1969. 2008 is the only year that at least one drafted player was not on the team 5 years later.

  • steeltown

    One good draft?


    Actually I’m guilty on 2 of 3 counts.

    Gay…I still think he plays too far off, Geno just wasn’t exploiting it, but his closing and ball defending skills have improved. Apology due.

    Colbert…not out of the woods, we’re still dealing with cap hell, and imo that caused us to lose K. Lewis and M. Wallace because we couldn’t lock them up early at much more cap friendly deals.

    On the draft…I do understand OL/DL studs are not often found where PIT has been picking the last 7 or 8 years…but there are other areas on the team where I just think we should have better talent. Others teams are finding these athletic TEs in the 3rd and 4th rounds, and I’m guessing 28 of the 32 teams have a WR over 6’1″ that can start.

    I do like this ’13 class so far, but ’12 leaves a lot to be desired losing Ta’amu, Rainey, and Spence. No apology due…yet.

  • Callentown

    I’m glad Michael finishes with a statement saying it’s still too early to get excited about THIS Steelers season.

    Yes, this team is playing better and if they had come out of the gates playing like this, we may all be talking about this team in a different situation. But they didn’t.

    They came out like a team that was unprepared for this season and it took them 4 losses to get to where they are competing.

    Competing, not playing winning football.

    Competing – but kicking field goals instead of scoring TD’s.
    Competing – but no turnovers once again and only 1 sack.
    Competing – but giving up a drive and the lead at the end of the game, again, at HOME.

    Let’s not get too crazy about how GREAT this team is yet. They’ve got a long LONG way to go.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    Never confuse knowledge with Steeler fans, proof is on a lot of those web sites that people pay to lambast their team and coaches.

  • r4kolb

    Thanx to steeltown I did an over an hours worth of research. (now I know how Dave feels) and I feel I owe Colbert an apology. Here is what I came up with. I looked at the Steelers drafts from 2009 to the present. Here are the facts which surprised me and may surprise some of the other Colbert/FO bashers.
    2013- 8 picks….7 playing
    2012- 9 picks….8 playing
    2011- 7 picks….4 playing
    2010- 10 picks..9 playing
    2009- 9 picks….7 playing
    If my calculations are correct (43 picks – 35 playing) that would mean Colbert/FO has a percentage of 88% of his picks since 2009 playing. I’m guessing that isn’t to shabby. I’m willing to show anyone more of how I came to this conclusion but it would take up too much room and I don’t think Dave will allow me to post my email to give anyone interested more details. Is anyone as surprised as me at this?

  • Chad H

    My apologies will come in December. Lot of season and turning around left to do. The rest of the schedule is not easy. NE, Packers, Bengals, Lions and Ravens yet to play. If we beat NE in 2 weeks I will start to say the coaches turned things around.

  • Mike Popovich

    I don’t think that William Gay’s play means we need to dismiss Cortez Allen.

  • r4kolb

    See below

  • steeltown

    Actually I am, that’s more than I assumed. The problem is some people will make the argument that the current Team is in decline thanks to those players, but I disagree with that.. yes the last half of 2012 and the first qtr of 2013 have been rough, but every Team has down times.. and most last a few years.

    I will however agree with bashers that 2008 was a horrid draft

  • joed32

    They are good at drafting, maybe they’re the best, but their not perfect and some players look great in college and can’t hack it the pros. Every team has busts and drafts that don’t pan out. Even the “Pittsburgh Steelers.” We only have 2 left from 2009 but it was a pretty good draft. Wallace and Lewis left as FAs but that doesn’t mean they were bad picks. 2005 was a really bad draft except for Miller. In 2008 at least we got some playing time out of Mendenhall and Mundy. My choice for worst would be 96.

  • Alan Felicia

    Apologies to Colbert? From 2008 thru 2012 NFL Draft, Colbert has failed to identify an impact defensive player! Reason we see lack of QB pressure is that Colbert has missed and failed to replace Aaron Smith, James Farrior, and James Harrison. Hood, Carter, Sylvester, not to mention other players like Thad Gibson, and Bruce Davis were all misses!
    Although its too early to judge 2013 draft, but, to his credit, Jones, Sharko, and Williams have shown some promise so far this season.

  • r4kolb

    I was thinking of how to break it down to a grading system but didn’t know what to use as the scale.
    2009 – Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis. Above Avg?
    Hood, Urbik, A.Q. Shipley, David Johnson Avg?
    2010 – Pouncey, Antonio Brown, Studs?
    Crezdon Butler, Sylvester, Dwyer, Chris Scott,
    Doug Worthington, All Avg or below?
    2011 – Cam, Gilbert, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen Avg?
    2012 – DeCastro, Above Avg?
    Paulson, Beachum, Avg?
    Adams, Ta’amu, Clemons, Fredrick, Below Avg?
    Spence, unknown
    2013 – Bell, Jarvis, Shamarko, Vince Williams,
    Wheaton, Early but look to be above Avg.?
    Landry Jones, Justin Brown, who knows?
    So though it’s not an exact science and open to interpretation this is what have.

  • Shea Fahr

    Many Fans including myself have never ripped the players you mentioned above in this article but with respect and in some defense of the less-informed, many Fans pay the NFL Team Salaries by investing their hard earned money into Merchandise, Tickets, NFL Ticket Package, Hotels and on and on…Why does any Fan owe an apology for voicing their opinion on a purchased product that WAS below the line?? Nobody owes anybody anything. Go Steelers!

  • Shea Fahr

    Agreed with 3 Rooks playing many snaps with Williams, Shamarko and Jarvis. You hit it on the mark.