Share This Page

Steelers bring back cornerback William Gay

| Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 12:21 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers cornerback William Gay plays against the Bills on Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Steelers cornerback William Gay celebrates with teammates after his interception return for a touchdown against the Bengals in the third quarter Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Cincinnati.

William Gay made the mistake once before. It wasn't going to happen a second time.

Gay, set to become a free agent Wednesday, decided against testing the market like he did a few years ago and agreed to terms Tuesday on a three-year deal to stay with the Steelers.

“Will is thrilled to continue his career in the place it started,” agent Jerrold Colton said. “He loves everything about being a Steeler — the organization, the coaching staff, the fans, the city and Steeler Nation.”

Financial terms weren't immediately known, and Colton said it is his policy not to divulge that information. Gay's last contract was for $4.5 million over three years.

Gay's signing was a priority for the Steelers before the start of the new league year set for 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Gay, 31, was one of the few bright spots in the Steelers secondary last year. He didn't allow a touchdown reception during the regular season and the playoffs. He finished with a pair of interceptions and six pass breakups with 94 passes thrown in his direction, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Steelers are thin at cornerback heading into the spring with Antwon Blake and Brandon Boykin set to become free agents. Only Ross Cockrell and Cortez Allen have any experience at cornerback besides Gay on the roster, but Cockrell was a part-time player last year and Allen could be released as a result of two underwhelming seasons after signing a $25 million contract.

The Steelers have last year's second-round pick Senquez Golson, but he missed the entire year with a shoulder injury. They also used a fourth-round selection on Doran Grant last year, but he was cut, re-signed and spent a portion of the season on the practice squad.

Gay provides a solid and versatile No. 1 cornerback for the Steelers, who finished 30th against the pass last year.

Even though the unit struggled, it wasn't Gay's fault.

Gay was rarely thrown at but still was able to be productive. Against the Bengals in December, he set an NFL record when he returned an interception for a touchdown for the fifth consecutive time. He also added 58 tackles and a sack.

Gay has been durable as well.

He has played in 144 consecutive games, the longest streak among active NFL cornerbacks. Gay played in the fourth-most snaps among cornerbacks last year.

Gay could have tested free agency and likely been paid more money but decided against that route again.

After starting a career-high 15 games in 2012, Gay left for the Cardinals but for good reasons.

Ike Taylor was still entrenched as the No. 1, and the Steelers had paid for promising young cornerbacks in Allen and Keenan Lewis. So Gay bolted to the Cardinals and surrounded himself with some familiar faces: coach Ken Whisenhunt, defensive coordinator Ray Horton and cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend.

Gay went on to have a solid season but due to an escalator clause in his contract, his salary was to balloon to more than $3 million in 2013, forcing the Cardinals to release him.

Three days later, Gay signed a three-year deal to return to the Steelers, for whom he transformed himself into the most dependable corner on the roster.

Gay marks the third would-be free agent the Steelers signed in two days, joining Robert Golden and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.