Steelers' Gay not getting ahead of himself

Ralph N. Paulk
| Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, 10:45 p.m.

William Gay is not getting ahead of himself, despite apparently locking up the starting left cornerback job over Cortez Allen for Sunday's game against the Jets.

“Cortez is still the guy to me,” Gay said Friday after taking most of the reps with the first-team defense. “I encourage him every day to make sure he knows that. When he gets back in, he has to (believe) this is his job.”

Allen, a fourth-round draft pick three years ago, was penciled in as the starter early in training camp. He secured the job, in part, because his 2011 NFL Draft classmate, Curtis Brown, never thrust himself into contention.

Although Gay returned after an abbreviated stay with the Arizona Cardinals, there was little doubt the oft-injured Allen would line up opposite Ike Taylor.

Allen again has been hampered by injuries — he missed two games before returning against Minnesota in London two weeks ago. But it's not an injury that has caught up with him this time. An uneven performance against the Vikings cleared the way for Gay to reclaim the job he held while Allen was injured.

“I just want to make sure I'm doing my job whether I'm the starter or the nickel (back),” Gay said. “It's not the reason I came back. I want to be part of something great.”

Gay is among several lineup changes made by coach Mike Tomlin as the Steelers (0-4) prepare to face the Jets (3-2) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Left tackle Mike Adams was relieved of his job in favor of Kelvin Beachum or recently required Levi Brown. Also, defensive end Ziggy Hood will be replaced by Cam Heyward.

“Cam and William have been playing before, so it's not like we lack confidence in those guys,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “It's not like they're new to the team. Whether you're a starter or backup, you have to stay focus. We can't afford any mental lapses.”

“Our mentality hasn't change defensively because we've changed (the starting lineup),” safety Troy Polamalu said. “How we've executed so far has been subpar, so we need to execute better.”

The Steelers' secondary will face rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who for the first time this season didn't commit a turnover in the Jets' win over Atlanta. The former West Virginia quarterback is a running threat as well, which is a point of emphasis for a secondary that missed several tackles against Minnesota.

“We want to focus on us,” Gay said. “We have to make tackles and if the ball comes our way, catch it.

“Regardless what the quarterback can do, we can't let any balls get behind us.”

In their loss to the Vikings, the Steelers were beaten by the deep ball, and Adrian Peterson hit a home run with 60-yard scoring run.

“The winning and losing between each snap is mostly mental,” Allen said. “If you have the ability to focus on the technique things, then you have a better chance of coming out on the right side of a play.”

Allen, though, was on the wrong side of several plays against the Vikings. He was beaten in coverage and missed a couple of tackles that enabled the Vikings to sustain scoring drives.

“I think not missing any time would have taken care of some of the problems I had. I had to get used to the speed of things and tackling, things that not having injuries would have cleared up for me,” Allen said. “All I can do now is take the extra time to fine tune things I know I can do.”

Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.

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