The Pittsburgh Steelers have lost yet another player in an off-season that’s proving a huge boon to our local U-Haul franchises. Starting cornerback William Gay has signed with – I hope you’re sitting down – the Arizona Cardinals. Shocking news, I know. Somewhere, Hines Ward has to be kicking a chair and wondering how was it that Pittsburgh West couldn’t find a place for him.
Ironically, this isn’t the first time Ken Whisenhunt has imported a starting corner from his former team. Following our victory in Superbowl XLIII, the Cards signed then starting CB Bryant McFadden to a big money free agent deal. B-Mac flamed out spectacularly and was eventually traded back to the Steelers the following season. McFadden started for a Steeler team that was once again Super Bowl bound but was injured this past pre-season and by the time he was healthy he had lost his starting job to, yes, William Gay.
Let’s hope Will.i.am fares better than his predecessor.
For the newbies who wonder why I’ve always spelled Gay’s first name with strategically placed periods, the video above should answer your question. When he made an idiot of himself by treating the crowd at our last Super Bowl victory parade to his impromptu musical stylings, I decided to dub him Will.i.am in tribute to his budding music career. The gig in Arizona better work out because I don’t think all the Auto-Tune in the world could salvage that singing voice. At least Kanye has some sick flow, yo.
Truth be told, though, I will miss Will.i.am. His is one of the better redemption stories of recent years. When B-Mac left, Gay was thrust into the starting line-up where he became far and away the most picked on corner in the NFL. After a season long demotion back to nickel, a position he’s always filled admirably, Will.i.am battled back to reclaim his starting job this season. The second time was the charm as he played very solid corner and was a big reason the Steelers finished the year with the league’s top ranked pass defense. Who can forget his Big Gay Interceptions against Cincy and Cleveland which effectively put those games away for us?
Scuttlebutt has it
Arizona Pittsburgh West is going to use Gay as their nickelback behind second year player AJ Jefferson and rising star Patrick Peterson. If anybody should know how to use him, it’s former Steelers secondary coach and current Cards defensive coordinator Ray Horton.
Meanwhile, the Steelers will go into this season with a new look secondary. Keenan Lewis did a decent job playing the nickel and the former third round pick will be given every opportunity to claim the starting job opposite Ike Taylor. Lewis has talent but he’s been slightly injury prone over his short career and has a times looked lost in man coverage. Cortez Allen had an impressive rookie season, becoming the rare newb who sees significant playing time in Dick LeBeau’s complicated defense. He has the size (6’1) you like in a corner and has a definite nose for the football but 2012 will still be only in his second year as a pro. Barring the Steelers drafting a corner early in this year’s draft, it appears Taylor, Lewis, and Allen will comprise the secondary.
From cutting Greg Lloyd and letting Barry Foster walk to releasing Joey Porter and ridding themselves of Santonio Holmes, the Steelers have never been afraid to turn over their roster. And more often than not, the players they bring in are as good or better than the ones they let go. Still, by my count the team has now lost, either to age, injury or free agency, five starters from last year’s squad. When’s the bleeding going to stop?
I can’t claim to be a card toting member of the Will.I.Am Fan Club, but I really hate seeing yet ANOTHER starter packing his bags. He had a few big games this year (as mentioned his #1 performance vs. Cincinnati) and looked to be on his way to consistent performance. It actually surprised me that there wasn’t a bigger push to try and keep him around. He was like a skinny Willie Colon, where the front office and coaching staff keeps seeing something I don’t.
He blew too many coverages and looked clueless enough times that I’m ready for a replacement. However, Deuce and company better have one in mind, or we will find ourselves calling this a disaster of an off-season when it’s over.