Steelers Should Keep William Gay In The Slot

The Pittsburgh Steelers look awfully smart one year out for having re-signed William Gay last offseason, turning in arguably the best year of his career in 2013 and stepping into the starting lineup in representative fashion when Cortez Allen was injured, and then again when Allen struggled on the field.

It’s quite a luxury to sign a nickel back who has the ability to step in and play on the outside if necessary, but the Steelers would probably like to get Gay back into the slot.

Not because he disappointed on the outside, but rather because he excelled while covering the slot. In fact, he was among the best last season.

While he spent 541 snaps in coverage in 2013 for the Steelers, about half of those snaps—267 to be exact—came in the slot. And while his overall numbers are good, they are even better when he played in the slot.

In total, Gay ranked eighth among cornerbacks in allowing just 0.91 yards per snap in coverage. Only Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman allowed less than 0.84 yards per coverage snap.

In the slot, Gay ranked second in the league, allowing just 0.73 yards per coverage snap. He allowed just 194 yards on 23 receptions in his 267 snaps from the slot.

When it comes to cover snaps per target and per reception, he was just middle of the road, having been targeted once every 6.1 snaps, and allowing a reception once every 10.4 snaps. Both ranked him within the 35-40 range among 81 qualified cornerbacks.

Those numbers improve dramatically in the slot. Nobody with the required snaps was better, in fact. He was targeted the least often and gave up receptions less frequently than every other qualified cornerback league-wide. He was targeted just once every 7.4 snaps and gave up a reception just once every 11.6 snaps.

While his overall passer rating allowed ranked a respectable 21st overall at 72.9, he had the sixth-best such rating while working in the slot, relative to other slot corners, at 66.2.

His sole interception, which he returned for a touchdown, came in the slot, while the only touchdown that he gave up came while working on the outside.

The Steelers brought Gay back to Pittsburgh to play the slot, and when he was allowed to focus on doing just that, he excelled. Playing in the slot allows him to mask some of his physical shortcomings while accentuating his football intelligence.

There’s no doubt that the defense benefited greatly from Gay’s ability to pinch hit on the outside for Allen while he was ailing or struggling. But for the Steelers to play their best on defense this season, they need to be able to count on Allen holding up his end of the bargain by becoming a reliable outside corner and allowing Gay to stay in the slot.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • steeltown

    Couldn’t agree more. Allen and Taylor outside with WillieG in the slot to start the season (barring injury) then working an early Rd CB in on dime situations and special teams with hopes that he can gain some much needed in-game experience and eventually start getting some quality snaps by seasons end

    Taylor is done after this season, so the new additions need to get up to speed in their rookie yr and ready to fully contribute by ’15


    Wasn’t aware that Gay was a quarterback? Do people check these articles before they are published?


    picky picky picky

  • blackandgoldBullion

    William Gay has improved immensely. In his first go around as a Steeler, I was terrified every time they threw in his direction. He played poorly and got burned often. I really thought there was no hope for him. I was shocked they picked him up and said as much.

    Give him credit though, as he has greatly improved to the point where I feel pretty comfortable having him out there wherever they ask him to play. Very good in the slot, but I think you would find that Allen would have interesting numbers as well. Unfortunately he began the year injured and when he returned he still had some bad games. When healthy, I believe Cortez Allen is excellent and will be a great Steeler for quite some time.

    My hat’s off to William Gay and the Steelers for proving me wrong.

  • dkoy85

    Glad one “off”(yea go check your comments) your only 9 posts was as lame as this. Feel bad for your wife.

  • dkoy85

    Good job Willie Gay. Always been a fan because of how he took the scrutiny and how much of a team player he is.

    With Taylor not being required to blanket the #1 we should see increased production out of the CBs this year. The secondary has a chance to be a strength this year with Taylor being limited and Clark gone.

  • Rob H

    Gay has always had the skill set that’s best suited for the slot, going back to the 2008 SB season, as long as you don’t ask him to cover the bigger or faster receivers he’s fine.

    Your scenario is what I think would be ideal, I would love to see us be able to trade back 3-5 spots and pick up Fuller and an extra pick, but I’d be happy with whoever they like in the second as well, I think waiting until the last pick in the third would be a mistake.

  • Callentown

    The decision to allow Keenan Lewis to leave continues to have an affect on this defense.

    I’ll admit I was wrong about Gay. He was the best CB on the field consistently last year.

    We still do not know if Cortez will be able to hold the #1 spot week in and week out as he has yet to do it. But if he cannot, it’s going to be a struggle until someone can step up to that level from being picked in the draft this May.

    Keenan would have made picking another CB unnecessary. This would not be an issue and we could have concentrated on another position of need instead.

  • Callentown

    IF Cortez can actually hold down the #1. If not, it could go the other way, seriously.

  • dkoy85

    Very true.

  • dgh57

    Thanks William Gay for the fine play you exhibited for us last season. With the way Clark and Taylor performed last year I don’t know what we would of done without you!

  • Weiss Chad

    I concur …keeping Lewis makes this defense look a lot better


    Didn’t know that you were a fan of mine! Get a life and stop studying my posts! My wife is fine…


    You do realize this site makes money from us clicking on advertisements at least they could make their articles accurate.

  • Rob H

    I completely agree about Lewis, but I also think it has turned into a situation where everyone (including a lot of writers) seem to enjoy trying to beat an already dead horse to death. They made a mistake by not making room under the cap to resign him and they’re paying for it, but now it’s time to fix it and move on.

  • Matthew Marczi

    There are a lot of people who make a lot more money than me for their writing who don’t even edit their own articles who make far worse mistakes than mine. Perhaps you should relax and give me a break for making a typo.

  • cencalsteeler

    A run on sentence, no?
    Sorry, couldn’t help it!

  • cencalsteeler

    Is your first sentence a question?
    Sorry, couldn’t help it!

  • Callentown



    btw, you’re out of vodka………


    Have your mom pick me a bottle up before she comes over tonight!

  • Mike Blauser

    Amen. You guys do an excellent job.


    I didn’t mean to offend you. Just constructive criticism on my part, please accept my apology.


    You got me on that one… What are you the president of the peanut gallery? How’s my punctuation on this one?


    Better scenario is that our top rookie CB steps in to push Ike or Willie for their spots early on. This will allow our secondary to be youthful enough to cover the teams with more than one top notch receiver. I love Ike, think he is a class act. Not a big fan of Gay, think we are settling for his mediocre play because there is no replacement in sight!

  • shawn

    Gay is mediocre at best … a lot of these PFF numbers are just gobly gook … dont mean crap … he is middle of the road at best and a definite detriment to the team long term … we need to transition to a better slot than Gay and a better CB than Ike … and another safety to replace Troy … not sold on Shamarko for that job … like Shamarko but not for troys position rather have him as the 3rd Safety for sub packages and depth and wild card position !


    hee hee!

  • cencalsteeler

    Just having a little fun with you!! You opened the door, so I let myself in!


    That’s cool, I ain’t mad at you! Wait a second, I don’t think “ain’t ” is a word 😀

  • Brendon Glad

    I’ve always liked William Gay WAY more than 95% of Steelers Nation, (and I didn’t even have to love him to get that accomplished)….BUT, most of Steelers Nation angst about Gay occurred during the times he was starting at LCB. So I can understand that…because that simply just isn’t his best spot. Was he as bad as people lamented he was?…in my opinion, no….but still he’s best suited as a nickel CB…that’s his niche’ that’s his strength…and if all you are asking of him is to try to be the best Deshea Townsend he can be, instead of asking him to be Darrell Revis, or on down the list at LCB, then he can do very pleasing things for us.