Cortez Allen will cover the slot in nickel packages

Gregory Shamus

Veteran CB William Gay will move outside, allowing the Steelers to exploit Allen's size and athleticism against the increasingly prominent tight ends and slot receivers of the NFL.

When cornerback William Gay was released by the Cardinals, the Steelers wasted little time in scooping him up out of free agency.

The team is familiar with him, he's familiar with the team. But there will be a new twist on Gay's role with the team, according to Tribune Review reporter Mark Kaboly.

Gay will be the team's nickel back this season, but he will defend on the outside, while starter Cortez Allen moves inside. Gay has served as the nickel back and starting cornerback with the Steelers in the past, and he covered slot receivers in nickel packages.

The inside defensive back has a difficult task, having to fight his way through traffic to stick with underneath receivers who are rubbing off other receivers in an effort to get open. The slot receiver also has to take a variety of receivers who may shift from the formation in pre-snap reads.

Another key is size. Allen, who is 6-foot-0, 196 pounds, has a size advantage over Gay, and can be used to body up physical tight ends - a position that's becoming increasingly prominent in the NFL. Main AFC North rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati each have a pair of talented receiving tight ends, and will use both of them as primary weapons in their passing games.

It's interesting to learn the Steelers are moving the lesser-experienced but more physically gifted Allen inside instead of Gay, but between the three top cornerbacks the Steelers have - Ike Taylor along with Allen and Gay - they have one of the deeper units in the league. They can be used a variety of different ways.


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