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mesaSteeler
01-18-2011, 06:09 AM
Harris: Gay thrives in increased role
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_718659.html#
By John Harris
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The winning cornerback stood in the Steelers locker room Saturday night and took a deep breath.

"It's getting out there and doing whatever you've got to do when your number's called,'' William Gay said.

A year ago Gay was experiencing the ups and downs of being a starting corner. His first season in that role threatened to be his last.

Gay reinvented himself as a nickel back who was minding his business when starting left cornerback Bryant McFadden departed the Steelers' divisional playoff game against Baltimore with a hip injury. With the game less than a quarter old, Gay switched roles, became an every-down player and tried to go unnoticed.

In a cornerback's world, the less attention he attracts, the better.

Gay and starter Ike Taylor limited Baltimore's three receivers to four receptions for 36 yards and were all but invisible in the Steelers' 31-24 win at Heinz Field because they didn't allow a touchdown or big play.

"We tried to stick to the game plan, just play our defense and cover their veteran receivers,'' Gay said. "We tried to bump them, we tried to get our hands on them. We tried to do anything to stop them.''

On Baltimore's final play, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh ran a comeback route against Gay on fourth-and-18. Houshmandzadeh found himself open beyond the first-down marker � as open as he had been all game. As Gay attempted to break up the pass, Houshmandzadeh saved him the trouble and dropped the ball. That's the same Houshmandzadeh who burned McFadden for the game-winning touchdown when the Ravens defeated the Steelers 17-14 three months earlier.

As NBA superstar LeBron James wrote recently on Twitter, karma is a you-know-what.

"That was by the grace of God,'' Gay recalled. "That was a good route he ran. I thought he was going deep. He stopped and did a comeback. (Joe) Flacco saw him and threw the ball. I was just running to the ball. I heard the crowd cheering. That's when I knew he dropped it.''

The fun is only beginning for Gay, who acquired the nickname "Big Play'' as a playmaking rookie three years ago. McFadden has been hobbled this season with assorted hip, abdomen and hamstring ailments, necessitating Gay receive more action at corner. The hip injury McFadden suffered in the first quarter against Baltimore could limit his effectiveness and availability for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets at Heinz Field.

Enter Gay, a fifth-round draft choice in 2007 who went from fan and media favorite two years ago to what-have-you-done-for-me-lately status as his playing time and responsibility increased.

Gay lost his starting job when the Steelers reacquired McFadden in a draft-day trade. He regained it Saturday � if only for one game � when McFadden hobbled to the sideline.

"We didn't know what B-Mac was going to do. He didn't feel like he was 100 percent,'' said Gay, who has made 18 career starts but none this season. "That's not being selfish on his part. He knew there was a guy behind him that was capable.''

Gay had one tackle and one pass defensed against Baltimore. He played his position solidly, didn't gamble or try to jump routes and kept everything in front of him.

Unlike last season, when he started 14 games but didn't always look comfortable playing on an island by himself, Gay played with calm assurance.

"If you threw out the records, all the meaning behind the playoffs, it's just a football game,'' Gay said. "You can't worry about what's going to happen next. ... That was my mindset, just fill a big void that B-Mac left.''

Taylor, who has served as Gay's mentor and trains with him during the offseason, said Gay will continue to improve.

"He made plays when he needed to make plays," Taylor said. "People gotta understand � Gay started last year. I'm not going to say last year was a setback, but when stuff goes bad, they tend to look at the secondary. Who cares? I've got two (Super Bowl) rings, Gay's got a ring. We've got some good players over here.''

Asked to compare his contributions this season with last season, Gay said there is no comparison because he's a better player who helped his team reach the playoffs after not qualifying for the postseason in 2009.

"It's night and day because we were home at this point, and now we're in the AFC Championship Game,'' Gay said.

If McFadden can't go and Gay starts in the conference title game with a trip to Super Bowl XLV on the line, he's already proven he won't back down from the challenge.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

DFWSTEELERFAN
01-18-2011, 08:04 AM
I hate to be nagative, but GAY is the weakest link. He was lucky TJ dropped the ball right in front of him. Teams always target him in critical situations because he can't cover worth a darn..:mad:

Curtain_of_Steel
01-18-2011, 12:16 PM
Compared to the Pats game and some of last years play. Gay has played quite well. His cover of TJ wasn't bad cover, if he is in front of him, Cool Joe is going long. It was a prevent set up.

He made some good plays and didn't get burned, the key is having troy back there to limit the pure 1v1 routes.

kirklandrules
01-18-2011, 01:36 PM
I hate to be nagative, but GAY is the weakest link. He was lucky TJ dropped the ball right in front of him. Teams always target him in critical situations because he can't cover worth a darn..:mad:

He did a hell of a job against some decent receivers in the Ravens game. And he's done a good job as the nickel all year long. And don't let that nickel title fool you ... sometimes the nickel faces some good receivers standing in the slot. I think his experience last year (albeit a tough experience) has helped him this year.

DFWSTEELERFAN
01-18-2011, 02:08 PM
He did a hell of a job against some decent receivers in the Ravens game. And he's done a good job as the nickel all year long. And don't let that nickel title fool you ... sometimes the nickel faces some good receivers standing in the slot. I think his experience last year (albeit a tough experience) has helped him this year.

He gets out of position though. He was too far off on that critical play and not close enough to even make a play on the ball... It was dropped...

CargoJon
01-18-2011, 02:30 PM
This weeks headline:

Jets QB is Gay

SteelKnight
01-18-2011, 02:42 PM
Gay...hit or miss.

He's out there a lot though so we play our nickel defense a lot yet teams still can't run. If i see Gay so much, Hampton must be on the sidelines a lot. Does anyone know how to compare how many plays Gay plays vs Hampton? Does some site have a #plays counter? Also, do they always take Hampton out for the nickel or do they sometimes take out one of the ILBs?

stlrtruck
01-18-2011, 02:54 PM
Stay invisible this week too!

kirklandrules
01-18-2011, 02:57 PM
He gets out of position though. He was too far off on that critical play and not close enough to even make a play on the ball... It was dropped...

He wasn't out of position. He was responsible for not allowing Housh to run past him into the endzone. Giving up a first down was not the priority in his prevent defensive role. BMac was taken apart on several posts for doing just the opposite in the first Ravens game (biting on the flag route when Housh went post route into the endzone for the winning score). Remember, a fieldgoal wouldn't win or tie the game ... the Ravens needed a score. If Gay allows a much taller receiver to get a few steps on him, it would be game over. He played the deep protection and hoped the pass rush would prevent the throw. Lebeau teaches to play to live another down, and Gay did just that. It was a bonus that Housh dropped it. If it wasn't a drop, then the D would have had more chances to sack, intercept, defend a pass, etc.

Gay is no Ike Taylor, but he certainly hasn't sucked it up this year.

ricardisimo
01-18-2011, 03:28 PM
These sorts of threads are stunning. Gay had a really good game. Even on that drop by Douche, I suspect he made his presence and his approach known to the receiver enough that he was distracted. It's not like Douche was standing all alone in the end zone the way he was in the loss in week four against BMac.

I say this half jokingly, but... It's because he's Gay, isn't it?

TRH
01-18-2011, 03:30 PM
i would venture to say that Gay is the "most improved" player on the team since the beginning of the year

theplatypus
01-18-2011, 03:35 PM
He gets out of position though. He was too far off on that critical play and not close enough to even make a play on the ball... It was dropped...


Go back and watch that play he was there within a millisecond of the ball.

ricardisimo
01-18-2011, 05:13 PM
i would venture to say that Gay is the "most improved" player on the team since the beginning of the year
Him and Ziggy.

SteelKnight
01-18-2011, 06:16 PM
Him and Ziggy.

Ziggy caught my eye last week. Prior to that he had bee sort of decent. I'm exited to see whether he can keep up the dominance this week.