Monday, November 14, 2011
William Gay picks off Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton in the fourth quarter Sunday. (Peter Diana/Post-Gazette)
CINCINNATI -- It's going to be a long two weeks for the talk shows. Whom are the fans going to criticize after the Steelers' 24-17 win Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals? How can they rip cornerback William Gay after he played the biggest part in it?
Those aren't my questions.
Steelers linebacker James Farrior asked 'em on his way out of Paul Brown Stadium, the Steelers' home away from home.
"A lot of people were down on William Gay last week," Farrior said. "Nobody in this locker room was, but a lot of people on the outside. That's why I'm so happy for him right now. He played a heck of a game. He gave us a play when we needed it at the end."
Gay made plays all over the field, actually. A week earlier, he took much of the blame for the bad home loss to the Baltimore Ravens and gladly was given more by Steelers Nation. Sunday, he had his teammates bragging about him.
"Funny how things work out, isn't it?" Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.
Gay broke up a team season-high four passes from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. One of his deflections was intercepted by linebacker Lawrence Timmons at the Steelers 33 early in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were fighting hard to protect their 24-17 lead. It was just their fifth turnover of the season.
No. 6 was huge.
No. 6 was all Gay.
The Bengals were driving for the tying touchdown late in the game and had a second-and-9 at the Steelers 25 when Gay jumped in front of a Dalton pass intended for wide receiver Jerome Simpson for the second interception of his career. The Steelers ran out the clock to get their 10th win in 11 games at Paul Brown Stadium and bump their record to 7-3 heading into their off weekend.
"It's about time," Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said of Gay's interception. "He's definitely capable of making those plays. We know he's a good cover corner. He's athletic. He has good ball skills. Hopefully, he makes those plays a lot more often for us."
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger enjoyed Gay's interception just as much.
"It was a game-changer for us," Roethlisberger said. "We love it when the defense gets us turnovers."
It hasn't happened much this season. Steelers linebacker James Harrison marveled that the team is in first place in the AFC North Division heading into its break despite "the fewest takeaways in franchise history." It's astonishing, really. Harrison said he likes to think the two turnovers caused by Gay are "maybe just the start for us, maybe the tip of the iceberg."
Gay didn't have much to offer on that subject or any subject, for that matter. "We won a big division game. That's the only thing that's important. I don't care what I did."
Gay was much more expansive after the Steelers blew a fourth-quarter lead in the 23-20 loss to the Ravens. The defense gave up a 92-yard touchdown drive in the final 2 1/2 minutes. Gay called it the "worst drive of my life" and took the blame for the winning 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Torrey Smith with eight seconds left.
"That wasn't his fault, but the average fan doesn't always understand what's happening so William Gay took a beating all week," Farrior said.
Immediately after the Baltimore game, safety Ryan Clark said he was the man to blame. He said he should have given Gay deep help.
"I thought he handled [the criticism] extremely well," Harrison said. "He's not going to say, 'That wasn't me. That was so-and-so at fault.' That's not how he operates and that's not how we operate."
Added Foote, "Everyone on the defense took that drive personally. When you're playing at home and you let a game like that slip through your hands, it's tough. It wasn't just William Gay. None of us were any good on that drive. Nobody."
The Steelers secondary was an area of concern going into the season. Everyone knew cornerback Ike Taylor was going to be solid. But what about the other corner? Bryant McFadden started the first game -- a 35-7 loss to the Ravens -- before Gay took over the position. Other than that final drive in the second Baltimore game, he and the defense have been solid.
"He's played good football," LeBeau said. "Today was his best game. He and all of our guys made big plays when the game was on the line."
Gay will have two weeks to enjoy it before the Steelers play again Nov. 27 at Kansas City.
Good for him.
Bad for the talk shows.
Ron Cook: email@example.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author