LATROBE — When William Gay calls the Pittsburgh Steelers his “family” and the organization his “home,” the seventh-year defensive back presumably isn’t being literal.
Tell that to his actual family. Apparently, they are.
Even as Gay spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals, those closest to Gay aligned their loyalties with the black and gold over their flesh and blood.
“My family wouldn’t let me get away from the Steelers,” said Gay, who has returned from a one-year so-called “vacation” to rejoin the franchise that drafted him in 2007. “They still flew the Steelers’ flag up in front of the house.
“They didn’t switch to (Cardinals’ colors) red and black. I told them, ‘I’m not with the Steelers no more.’ They didn’t care nothing about that.”
Now Gay that is back with his football family, his real family can root for him again.
“They were pumped when I signed back,” Gay said between training-camp workouts Wednesday at St. Vincent College. “I didn’t even get a chance to tell them. As soon as they saw it, they started calling.”
Gay expressed similar enthusiasm in rejoining a team in which he won the 2009 Super Bowl with and then started for in another Super Bowl game two years later.
Gay has played out of a variety of spots in the defensive backfield and during all 104 regular-season and playoff games his teams have played during his NFL career. He has played 96 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak among cornerbacks.
No one knows more about Gay’s dependability and versatility than do the Steelers, who signed him to a one-year contract in March — less than one year after he’d agreed to join the Cardinals after spending his first five NFL seasons with Pittsburgh.
“Right from when I first signed back, it just felt like home,” Gay said. “Now being in training camp, being in Latrobe, is just proving that point. I know where everything is at on campus, just getting the golf cart coming here (to the cafeteria) to eat dinner, lunch, breakfast, all that stuff feels normal to me. It feels good to be back to something that’s normal.”
To Gay, playing any number of positions in the secondary seems normal. Like many young defensive backs, he started out in the dime and nickel packages during his rookie season out of Louisville. The following year, he made his first four career starts at left cornerback opposite longtime Steeler Ike Taylor.
In 2009, he entered the season as the starter, but a mediocre Steelers season had him back in a nickel role by the end of the 9-7 campaign. Gay played largely out of the slot in 2010 before leaving as a free agent that offseason to sign a reported two-year, $3.2 million contract with Arizona.
Gay started 15 of the 16 games for the Cardinals during his one-year sabbatical in the desert — one Taylor playfully called Gay’s “vacation.”
“It just felt like Will went on a vacation,” Taylor said. “Now he came back.”