When cornerback William Gay was released last offseason by the Arizona Cardinals after just one season out in the desert, he knew right away that he wanted to go back to the team that drafted him in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, if at all possible. Gay recently shared his thoughts about that process and decision with Teresa Varley of steelers.com.
"When I first came back here other teams wanted me to visit them and I told them no," Gay said. "I felt like Pittsburgh was the place I needed to be to finish up my career. It was the best decision I ever made."
Gay isn't the first player that we have heard this sentiment from and he certainly won't be the last. Over the years, several players have left the Steelers via free agency only to return a few years later. They all usually say the same thing upon their return and all usually refer to the Steelers organization as a close-nit family, just as Gay did in his interview with Varley.
When Gay signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract last March, it was viewed as a depth move as many believed Cortez Allen would start opposite Ike Taylor after Keenan Lewis was allowed to leave via free agency. However, after Allen suffered an ankle injury in the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, Gay found himself in the starting lineup for the next two games.
After Allen played poorly upon his return to the starting lineup in the Week 4 game in London against the Minnesota Vikings, Gay was again back in the starting lineup and he remained there for the next eight games. During that span, he was the Steelers best player in the secondary hands down.
It was only a matter of time before Allen showed enough to return to the starting lineup and Gay graciously resumed his role as the sub package corner. During his interview with Varley, the Louisville product talked about learning how to be a professional from Deshea Townsend, who was the starter in Pittsburgh when Gay came into the league. According to Gay, Townsend helped him instead of viewing him as the enemy coming in to take his job and he is now paying it forward to Allen.
"I am doing the same with Cortez," Gay said. "You never want to leave this game with all of the information in your head. You want to give it out to as many young guys as possible."
Gay, Taylor and Allen all train together during the offseason down in Florida and that's been going on for a few offseasons now. They truly are a band of brothers. They're family.