View Full Version : 'Big Play' never quite fit Gay

12-09-2009, 03:12 AM
Bires: 'Big Play' never quite fit Gay

By: Mike Bires
Beaver County Times
http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sport ... t-gay.html (http://www.timesonline.com/sports/sports_details/article/1424/2009/december/08/bires-big-play-never-quite-fit-gay.html)
Tuesday December 8, 2009 12:13 AM

It appears that an injury will do what Mike Tomlin should have done weeks ago: Get William Gay out of the starting lineup.

Easily the weakest link in a struggling Steelers defense, Gay became a starter after cornerback Bryant McFadden bolted to Arizona via free agency. But Gay’s days as a starter may soon be numbered.

After suffering a concussion late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s stunning loss to Oakland, Gay probably won’t play Thursday in Cleveland.

Instead, Joe Burnett will likely start. And if the rookie holds his own, he may keep the starting job for the rest of the season.

Though his nickname might be “Big Play, but neither Gay nor any other of the Steelers’ cornerbacks have made many big plays. In one of the great mysteries in the NFL this season, none of the Steelers corners have yet to intercept a pass.

What Gay is proficient at is making tackles. He leads the team with 78 solos. But it is not usually a good thing when a cornerback has that many tackles.

In Gay’s case, it’s because he’s tackling so many wide receivers who have beaten him to the ball on pass plays.

In recent weeks, it’s been obvious that teams are picking on the third-year pro. Even though Ike Taylor played poorly against the Raiders, he’s still a solid cover corner. So it only makes sense that teams would throw more in Gay’s direction.

Hopefully, Gay will recover fast from his concussion.

But time will tell if he gets back his starting job.

l Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher used to stay it over and over: “There’s a fine line in this league between winning and losing.”

Proof of that premise is the 2009 Steelers.

In five of their six losses, the Steelers have lost by three points.

Two of those losses were in overtime.
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In three other losses, the winning teams scored with 15, 14 and 9 seconds left, respectively.

In each of their losses, a play here or a play there separated the Steelers from victory.

How close they are to being something like 10-2 or 9-3.

l How coincidental was it that on the Hail Mary pass that Ben Roethlisberger threw on the last play of Sunday’s game, Limas Sweed had a good chance to catch it.

At 6-foot-4, Sweed was the tallest player in the group of wide receivers and Raiders defensive backs fighting for the ball. Then again, he’s also a guy who’s struggled catching even catchable passes.

But just when it seemed Sweed might make the miracle catch and salvage some respect among his teammates, the play was broken up by safety Hiram Eugene, who’s 6-2.

“Given the circumstances, that’s about as reasonable an opportunity as you’re going to have to make that play,” coach Mike Tomlin said. “When you talk about Hail Marys, if you will, a bunch of bodies coming to a point in the end zone, we had a 6-4 guy at the point with a pretty clean look at it. You like your chances under the circumstances, but let’s face it, those aren’t very good circumstances when you’re doing that.”

l Tomlin will never give in to the temptation of saying the Steelers miss injured safety Troy Polamalu.

But who’s kidding who?

In the seven games Polamalu hasn’t started, the Steelers are 2-5.

In games he’s started, they’re 4-1. And in that one start of his that the Steelers lost — 18-12 against the Bengals on Nov. 15 — Polamalu missed the second half after the Steelers led 9-6 at the break.

There’s no doubt Polamalu is the MVP of the defense.

Mike Bires can be reached at mbires@timesonline.com