I’m going to come clean with you, I hated William Gay. Not a mild dislike or a slight distaste for him, I hated the man. I hated that whenever a Steelers game was played, it seemed that on the big passing plays by the opposition, it was No. 22 on the receiving end, watching the receiver streak towards the end zone.
Mentioning William Gay to many a Steelers fan leads to sighs and serious questions over his ability as a NFL cornerback.
However, Gay appears to have largely improved from his poor performance in Superbowl XLV, where Aaron Rodgers showed up Gay and his colleagues in the Steelers secondary.
In fact, Gay has played better this season than in previous years, so maybe it’s time to stop hating the man and have a look at why we should forgive him for those past discrepancies in coverage.
As long ago as 2008, Dick LeBeau praised William Gay, describing him as “a good, quality player there who should continue to grow” in an interview with Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
This was following a season where Gay had 41 tackles and an interception in 16 games, the interception being crucial in helping the Steelers win the second regular season game over the Baltimore Ravens.
LeBeau is not alone in singing Gay’s praises, with Mike Tomlin describing him as “a consummate professional, a team player.”
The stats tell the story. So far this season Gay has been targeted 24 times (excluding the Houston game, for which I couldn’t find the stats) with 14 completions against, a rate of 58.3 percent.
It’s not the best it could be, but considering the benefit offenses have in this league, that percentage seems pretty respectable.
As far as being targeted team-wise, the Steelers have faced 193 passes, so with only 24 of those going Gay’s way, that makes for a percentage of 12.4 percent. Not bad is it?
Bryant McFadden was a liability last year, but Gay continued to take much of the flak from fans.
Now, however, it’s McFadden giving up big plays while Gay is playing some half-decent football.
I’m not saying he’s all of a sudden this incredible cover corner, but he has definitely improved over last season, while McFadden has regressed.
Ike Taylor is 31, Bryant McFadden is 29. William Gay is only 26.
They say corner is a young man’s game, keeping up with the fast cuts and speed of NFL wide receivers. In two years time, Gay might be one of the Steelers' starting corners, considering McFadden will have most likely lost a step—he doesn’t have that many he can afford to lose—while Ike will be 33. Unless your name is Ronde Barber or Champ Bailey, that’s not a good sign.
I had no idea about William Gay’s story before; I was too busy focusing on hating everything he did on the field.
His mother was a victim of domestic violence—she was shot and killed by her partner when Gay was only 8—leaving him to be raised by his grandmother.
He gave a talk and showed a video explaining this to the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh and doing a public service announcement, helping to raise the profile of domestic violence in America, as well as helping and mentoring children struggling to cope with their own troubles with domestic violence.
OK, I accept William Gay is still not anywhere near being a big time corner in the NFL.
He gets out of position on a number of occasions—like his big hit on Doug Baldwin in Week 2, where he should really have not allowed the catch in the first place—and has seemingly inherited Ike Taylor’s stone hands, with only one interception in 70 career games, despite supposedly being the most targeted.
However, there has been undeniable improvement in his game so far. If he can keep it up, then maybe, just maybe, we should forgive William Gay.