Steelers' Gay rises above criticism
A quick Google search of ‘William Gay Stinks' comes back with more than 102,000 results in 0.19 seconds.
There are Facebook pages dedicated to the topic, endless threads on message boards, Twitter posts galore and even one of the suggestions on Yahoo! Answers for why the Steelers lost Super Bowl XLV was because “William Gay stinks.”
Some fans may believe that, but the Steelers surely don't.
“What he is, he is a scapegoat,” cornerback Ike Taylor said. “Trust me, you don't play seven years in this league if you are awful. He can play safety, he can play nickel, he can play dime, he can play corner. When you have a guy like that, Coach (Dick) LeBeau can open up the playbook.”
The Steelers were thrilled in March to have an opportunity to bring Gay back after a one-year stop in Arizona. The Steelers signed the 28-year-old to a three-year, $4.5 million contract to add to an already talented back-half of their defense as sub-package cornerback.
It's a role that Gay thrived in the year before leaving for Arizona when he had two interceptions, a career-high 14 passes defensed and two fumble recoveries.
“This is a good situation for me,” Gay said. “It is a good thing when your old team opens their arms and welcomes you back. It was the right decision, and I am happy with the decision.”
While he was supposed to provide the Steelers with the flexibility to move Cortez Allen to the slot in the nickel defense, Gay has found himself with much more responsibility.
Injuries to Allen, Curtis Brown, DeMarcus Van Dyke and rookie Terry Hawthorne have left the secondary paper thin. Gay has proven to be invaluable by moving to starting left cornerback in the base defense and to the slot during sub-package football.
Yet another example of Gay's value is that since being drafted in 2007, he's played in 96 straight regular-season games, the longest active streak among NFL cornerbacks.
“William is very intelligent, and that really is his greatest asset,” defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said. “He's open-minded and flexible enough to adjust on the run. If you tell him once, he got it and he does it.”
But, for some reason, Gay has never been able to shed criticism.
It may stem back to Adrian Peterson bulldozing Gay in the open field, then stepping on his chest in a 2009 game against Minnesota, or the three touchdown passes he allowed to New England rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski a year later.
The latest criticism came during Saturday's preseason game against the Giants when Victor Cruz caught a 57-yard touchdown over what appeared to be a badly beaten Gay.
However, that wasn't the case, and it wasn't Gay's fault.
“We know who is at fault and who messes up,” Taylor said. “And it wasn't his fault. It just so happened it looked like it was his fault.”
Even more important, Lake knows it wasn't Gay's fault.
“There are people counting on other players positioning and support, and if it is not there, you leave them hanging out to dry,” Lake said “That's what happened.”
Gay hears the criticism and says it doesn't affect him.
“Really, that doesn't faze me at all,” Gay said. “I am not going to lose sleep over something like that.”
Taylor, who works out with Gay in Florida in the offseason, has his own take on why Gay is so heavily scrutinized.
“If Robin does something good, Batman is always going to get the credit,” Taylor said. “Nobody ever talks about Robin, and that's why Robin crossed over to the dark side.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.
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