Pittsburgh Steelers: William Gay and 4 Steelers in Need of Big Seasons
William Gay and a host of others need to play well in 2011-12 for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They need to play well not only for the team's benefit, but also for their own benefit.
Whether it is because of previous injury problems, age or lack of productivity, these five players need to produce in the upcoming season.
If they don't, they could find themselves as a permanent backup or in another team's uniform.
No 5: Jonathan Scott
Jonathan Scott will anchor the left tackle spot for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season. This will be his position to lose, as it appears that rookie Marcus Gilbert won't be ready to be a starter this year.
As for now, Scott is an average left tackle, but he does have one season to prove himself worthy of a full-time, future starter's job on Ben Roethlisberger's blindside.
He needs to have a big season if he plans on being the future starter. If he falters, he may find himself as a backup to Gilbert next season.
No 4: Aaron Smith
With Cameron Heyward waiting in the wings, defensive end Aaron Smith needs to be able to stay healthy this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
At age 35, Smith's window is closing and his playing time will be decreased even if he is healthy. If he struggles on the field or struggles to remain healthy, he won't be be on the roster next season.
Smith was a player that could be counted on early in his career. In seven of the eight seasons to start his career, Smith played in every regular season game.
However, three of the past four seasons have been cut short due to injuries.
No 3: Bryant McFadden
Bryant McFadden looks like a different player since returning to the Steel City last season.
Last season, McFadden played in all 16 games, collecting 81 tackles and 10 pass deflections. Playing alongside one of the best defenses in the league, McFadden was considered a liability at times.
At age 29, McFadden is still relatively young so a bounce back performance may be on its way.
He must be able to play well this season if he plans on being on the team in the future.
No 2: Keenan Lewis
Ever since being drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Keenan Lewis was thought of as a potential future starting cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He hasn't shown he is quite capable of playing the position at a high level. In two seasons, Lewis has collected 12 total tackles in 13 games played.
This will be the season that will depict if Lewis is capable of making a real impact to the club. He needs to be ready to step into a bigger role if injuries happen to Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden or William Gay. He also needs to play well in the nickel and dime coverage schemes.
Pittsburgh needs to be better in their secondary, and seeing an improvement to Lewis would be a good start.
No 1: William Gay
William Gay played better last season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, but what other direction could he go? He couldn't get worse...you would think.
Seemingly every time an opposing team would throw for 10 or more yards against a cornerback in the past few years, general consensus would ask, "Who was that? Gay?"
Most of the time it was.
Gay has been well below average throughout his four-year career. Last season, Gay collected 48 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble.
If Bryant McFadden replicates his 2010 performance, Gay may find himself more playing time. Of course, this will all depend on how well Gay plays too.
If Gay doesn't improve this season, chances are he never will.