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PFF Names Steelers CB William Gay A Secret Superstar For His Play In 2013


When the Pittsburgh Steelers decided to sign back cornerback William Gay last offseason after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals, you would have thought they signed NBA forward Rudy Gay, judging by the overall reaction by the fan base. While several laughed at the signing, it was William Gay that wound up having the last laugh thanks to his stellar play in 2013.

While several of Gay’s previous doubters have already begrudgingly given the veteran cornerback his due for his play last season, Pro Football Focus has now tipped their hat to the Louisville product by naming him one of their 2014 Secret Superstars.

On Wednesday, PFF analyst Sam Monson not only accurately described Gay’s up and down first go-around in Pittsburgh, he also highlighted his strong play last season.

While Gay only started 11 games last season, he was by far the Steelers best cornerback in 2013 as evidenced by his 72.9 passer rating yielded when targeted in coverage. Monson goes on to write that Gay’s overall PFF player rating of +11.1 would have been even higher last season had he registered more than just one interception, which was only the sixth of his career. However, as we all know by now, the lack of pressure provided by the Steelers defense over the course of the last several years has resulted in team interceptions being a lot lower than they should be.

Being a willing and able tackler has forever been a prime requisite for Steelers cornerbacks and Monson makes sure to highlight that portion of Gay’s 2013 play as well in his article.

His coverage represented a high-water mark during his career in 2013 but it was a more complete performance than just coverage. Only Captain Munnerlyn notched more defensive stops (tackles constituting an offensive failure) and only Tracy Porter recorded a run stop at a better rate. Too many corners in the league aren’t too interested in the run game, but a certain special breed see it as an opportunity to make more plays. Those are the corners I enjoy watching the most and Gay most certainly falls into that second category.

Should young Steelers cornerback Cortez Allen stay healthy this offseason, he’ll more than likely be the starter opposite Ike Taylor in 2014 and that means that Gay will likely go back to playing mostly in sub packages. However, should either Taylor or Allen wind up getting injured or not playing well at any point during the season, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin won’t hesitate to replace either with Gay.

The Steelers defense certainly had its problem last season, but there would’ve been even more problems had Gay not played like he did. No, Gay won’t go down in Steelers history as being a Superstar, but in 2013 his play was indeed super compared to the rest of the players on defense and that shouldn’t be kept a secret.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • John C

    Gay may end up starting opposite Allen! No guarantees Ike keeps his starting job….let alone make the team.

  • shawn

    As bad as Ike played last year …. he is a TON better than Gay … really getting tired of this over the top praise of Gay ,… Gay is who we know he is … leopards dont change their spots … he’s a decent back up and is capable of manning the slot …. thats about it …. will be glad when they finally upgrade and move on from him next year !

  • joed32

    With what they’re paying him, he makes the team.

  • John C

    My comment was not an endorsement of Gay but an acknowledgement that Ike is going to suck even more this year than he did last year.

  • steeltown

    WillieG actually had a solid season back in 2011 starting opposite Taylor before going to ARI as well. I am happy to have him.

  • rayster

    I think of the Steelers revamp as occurring over three years.
    After focusing on DE and LB this draft, focus on corner/safety with draft 2015.
    Relax, pop open a Genessee Cream Ale, it’ll happen. I think beer should be served at the temperature of the slushy ice in a cooler….any opinions on that?

  • John C

    $2.75M is not that much.

  • John C

    Man…haven’t had a Genny Cream Ale in forever! :-)

    I like my run of the mill beers like Bud, Miller, IC, etc. as cold possible but more complex beers like craft brews or say Guinness, I like somewhere between “cold” and room temp. The colder the beer, the less aroma the beer gives off thus effecting the taste somewhat.

  • rayster

    Oh, and go bottles rather than cans…you know…sometimes cans have that tinny taste. If you can get ‘em.
    Coldness vs. taste…coldness vs. taste…coldness vs. taste…hmmmmmmmm…

  • shawn

    Lets hope not … he still has decent speed and in good shape .. so I’m hoping last year was more of an aberration than continual downhill slide …. I’d be happy if he turned out a middle of the road performance while Cortez started to blossom …

    Lets hope next year we get our shut down playmaking CB in the draft !

  • shawn

    I think thats a great plan … we revamped the 1st 2 levels of our Def … now lets hit the back end in 2015 with a playmaking CB and S !

  • John C

    I hope you are right cause we need him to bounce back. I am worried about “the continual downhill slide” thing. Ike said he struggled last season because he was banged up….at his age and showing signs of breaking down the last couple years, I’m worried it will be more of the same. But the man is in amazing condition so we will see.

  • rayster

    I’m guessing that Shazier’s speed** means that he will cover TEs, slot receivers, RBs out of backfield!
    The revamped DEs rush the QBs.
    These two are the cornerstones of pass defense and that’s why the Steelers went there!
    Use the DBs to jostle the WRs off their route…BOOM! Great defence.
    I’m patient for the 2015 draft when they take corners and safetys….
    Patience and…beer.

  • shawn

    sounds like a plan … i have no idea which good ones are coming out next year … would like to hear people’s favourite CBs and Safeties …

  • ApexSteel

    Safety is already dealt with. I say next year next year is Corner, Tight End, and a Tackle.

  • joed32

    No it isn’t but isn’t his cap hit a little over 6 mil?

  • John C

    I believe there is $4M plus in dead money from his previous contract that is there whether he is on the team or not…..regardless, I can’t really see him not making the team. Not like we are loaded at corner or anything!

  • John C

    Yeah…I wonder if 2015 will be as deep at CB as this year….one would think not but who knows.

  • John C

    Only time I prefer cans is when it is outdoor event…easier clean up and safer. Otherwise, bottles or draft for me.

  • rayster

    Have draft watching the draft….

  • Steel PAul

    Shawn, respectfully, you’re wrong on this one. Yes, he has not looked as good in previous seasons, but last year he was without doubt our best CB. Check his stats if you haven’t.

    No reason to believe he will not continue to play well as the third CB. And frankly, we had better start to see Cortez play like the person we thought he was when the team let Keenan walk.

  • John C

    Some CBs to keep an eye on this College Football season:

    1. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (5-10, 195)
    2. P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State (6-0, 195)
    3. Josh Shaw, CB, USC (6-1, 195)
    4. Alex Carter, CB, Stanford (6-0, 200)
    5. Jalen Mills, CB, LSU (6-1, 190)

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Shawn. I find myself agreeing with most of your posts lately.

    I also agree Gay that is a solid back up or dime “slot” CB, but I’m not ready to call him a starting caliber #2 CB. I think the situations we put him in last year helped his productivity tremendously.

    Ike is a guy we put one-on-one against the opponents’ top WR, either side of the field, deep or short routes, with no safety help. He is much more exposed and last year it caught up with him.

    We don’t do that with Gay. Put Ike on a #3 WR and see how much better he looks. Put Gay one on one against the opponents’ top WR and we won’t be seeing any more “Secret Superstar” articles.

  • shawn

    we still need Polamalu’s replacement … not so sure if Shamarko is the guy … i think he might be more of a 3rd Safety hybrid

  • Ike Evans

    More of a wat?

  • shawn

    Listen … I agree he played relatively well last year … and at other times in the past as well … but it doesnt change who he is … we all know his ability and it is severely lacking … sorry i just have seen him get beat way too many times … and I’m pretty confident that if he’s left in too often he will get taken advantage of … all I’m saying is i think we can do a lot better and upgrade the slot position in the future !

  • shawn

    very well put ! pretty much my points …. like him in certain situations … but if we over expose him he will get targeted and lit up pretty easily !

  • Steel PAul

    For some reason, I can’t stop thinking of Phil Simms as a comparison – even though they played different positions.

    Simms was average at best for a few years, but ultimately, the light went on and everything came together.

    Gay played better than relatively well last year. He was strong! And I was in your corner not long ago as a Gay-hater. But.. far as I’m concerned, he showed me who he is now.

    I’d love another play-maker back there because I’m not convinced we have a true #1 CB to cover the elite. But Gay is not the problem any longer.

  • SFIC

    I’ll take an ice cold Kilkenny Irish Cream Ale…..(I’m drooling like Homer Simpson….Aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!)

  • shawn

    well kind of how they used him in packages last year … maybe a slot guy … or when they want more of a nickel DB thats a hitter or in the box in certain packages …

    not so sure if the team is sold on that he is the heir apparent to Troy …

    I really hope he gets a lot of playing time this year so we know what we have … I’m hoping he is special one way or another !

  • shawn

    well you are a lot more confident in his abilities than i am … i’ll save the I told u so’s if & when he gets burned to a crisp … i think this might be his last year in the burgh anyhow though !

  • ApexSteel

    Shamarko will be good enough to replace Troy trust me. He has all the talent in the world he just doesn’t have the height.

  • Ike Evans

    Hope so too….we will see tho. I wouldnt put anything past shark tho….hes a hard worker along with being talented physically

  • shawn

    trust u lol … I’m thinking we have both seen about the same from him … which is very little … dont get me wrong I’m rooting from him and obviously know that he is gifted … all I’m saying is i wouldnt put it past the team to draft a playmaking S high next year … worst case scenario we have 3 good Safeties … which in this pass happy league doesnt hurt … not to mention that we really have TWO unknowns in both Mitchell & Shamarko

    about his height … didnt hurt bob sanders much … I’m not too concerned about his height … just hoping he gets on the field and acclimated to the game more … didnt like Will Allen taking all the snaps the 2nd half of the season … delayed Shamarko’s development somewhat and at no gain to the team !

  • ApexSteel

    They won’t. Why would they trade a third and give Shamarko 200+ snaps if they don’t think he can be the future at safety? You also called them “unknowns” like Mitchell hasn’t already shown he can produce at this level and both players won’t have 20+ games to show what they can do. And you might say you haven’t seen a lot from him, but his teammates who practiced and played with him say something different. I’m just going to listen to the experts on the subject.

  • shawn

    Unknowns as in Mitchell has been a one hit wonder so far … so yes we are all expecting quite a lot from him but the jury is still out … Dont rule out them taking a S high next year .. it was actually thought they might do it this year as well … i could easily see them do it if the draft happened to land that way !

    What i meant by seeing little from Shamarko is that he just hasn’t been on the field enough … nothing to do with him not performing well … and as far as that goes … the players and the coaches dont know any more than anybody else does … everyone agrees that he is talented and has high expectations but until he performs in actual games its just expectations nothing more !

  • ApexSteel

    I’m gonna go ahead and rule it out. No one has given any indication that we don’t believe in our safeties. In fact the last time a safety was even mocked to us early in the draft was before we gave Mitchell 5 mil a year.

    And you can’t be serious if you don’t think the team knows Shamarko’s potential more that any of us do. Even if no one has seen it on the field, If they believe in him, that alone will deter them from drafting a safety early.

  • steelster

    it’s sad that you guys don’t drink better beers.

  • SFIC

    Better beers? Like what?

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    I’ve been saying exactly this, and getting mocked for it, all offseason.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    Gay is better in slot, he is far from his best on the outside. Hopefully he stays at the 3 spot.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    Gay is an above average slot CB. More than just last year supports that.

  • steelster

    pale ale’s, IPA’s, porter’s and stout’s to begin with.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    William Gay is a serviceable NFL CB. he is rarely out of position and it usually takes a good throw and catch to beat him. Case in point Jordy Nelson in the SB…the ball was caught just over his hand..nothing to be embarrassed about by getting blown up by AP either…225 vs 190′ it’s physics.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Every CB gets toasted…Joe Hayden, a top 4 or 5 CB got toasted by AB last year. There are about 3-4 shutdowns after that it’s all about containment. The key is pressure 34 sacks just doesn’t cut it

  • shawn

    Well not many people thought ILB would be our top pick this year .. and regarding the team knowing how much talent a player has … why in the heck didnt they sign Worilds after 2012 … goes to show the staff sometimes doesnt know until we all do from seeing it on the field on game day !

  • shawn

    you’re right about the sacks & pressure need to step that up …. wasn’t talking about getting beat occasionally … they all do you are right … I’m talking about getting beat consistently and thats what i would be concerned about with him against a good slot WR with a good QB .. say the Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Mannings … Tom Bradys who all have the criteria needed above and happen to be the teams that one needs to pass through to get to the top !

  • ApexSteel

    The difference is that we didn’t trade up last year to get an ILB and we didn’t pay another free agent ILB 5 mil a year. The reason why they didn’t sign Woirlds in 2012 is the same reason they didn’t sign him this year. Players get PAID for production not potential. The reason why the staff kept him around was because they saw that he had the potential and he practiced well.

  • shawn

    your getting paid for production not potential strategy is archaic …. its a sure way to be a bottom dweller in the NFL … with the Salary cap teams need to be astute evaluators of talent and get bargains while and where they can … otherwise you lock up too much money in a handful of players and pay the price elsewhere … all because waiting for a player to explode before paying him … or u lose them in FA … Keenan was a prime example of waiting too long … while AB was a perfect example of paying him early … get it !!!

    Just because they paid for a S in FA and traded up from the (4th round ) doesnt mean they believe they are set … they will take the best talent available and Safety is still an issue until known otherwise … as you can see i dont agree with your theories !

  • SFIC

    I’ve tried most of those and I actually drink Pale Ales more than any others. I’m not sure if you’ve tried Kilkenny before, but it is brewed by Guiness. It might be more difficult to find in the US but it is really popular in Canada. Celebs as diverse as Mike Meyers to Drake are regular drinkers.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    I don’t disagree with the 3 QB’s you mention but Brady and Manning get rattled if you knock them off their spot…their 4 Super Bowl losses illustrate that. The Steelers don’t put a premium on CB’s because a great rush makes every DB look good. They haven’t had that the last 8&8′s

  • shawn

    We haven’t had a good rush in longer than that … i agree with u on manning … he completely folds when pressured but with brady it depends u never know … anyways my point is we need a good guy in the slot … pretty much starter quality & gay does not make that cut … he’s served admirably for now but time to upgrade next year !

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