I'll take the Steelers defense any day of the week and twice on Sundays. Image courtesy steelers.com

Pittsburgh Steelers Advanced Stats: William Gay is Better Than Ike Taylor


Every Pittsburgh Steelers fan saw Ike Taylor play like garbage last year, getting beat again and again by teams’ number one receivers. Often, Ike would draw senseless penalties when he was getting abused, hurting the Steelers even more. It was a dramatic fall off a cliff for Taylor who has had a very successful and underrated career as a cornerback for Pittsburgh.

William Gay, on the other hand, has been a fan whipping boy for most of his career. I can’t remember how many times I’ve yelled at my TV when Willie Gay missed a play or some such nonsense. However, in 2013, Gay played much better than Taylor.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Football Outsiders, it is a website dedicated to the analysis of football using innovative statistics. Using the data collected from their game charting project, where a group of volunteers along with staff members go through every play of every game from the season and document every detail surrounding the play, they have developed some statistics and algorithms to help give a clearer (or more confusing depending on how you look at it) picture of what is really going on in the National Football League. It’s not an exact science, but it gives some nice numbers and rankings and fun stuff like that to look at and compare.

Just before the draft, Football Outsiders released their Best Cornerback Charting Stats for the 2013 season. Then, a few days ago they release the Worst Cornerback Charting Stats. These articles take a look at the 88 cornerbacks in the league, who were listed in coverage on at least 50 passes or started at least eight games. The stats compared are average yardage allowed per pass, success rate (with a “success” being a gain of 45% of yardage needed for a first down on first down, 60% of yardage needed on second down, and 100% needed on third and fourth downs), and Yards After the Catch Allowed. Better outside corners are expected to excel at the success rate, while better slot corners are expected to have less yardage per pass allowed.

Using these stats, William Gay was listed as the second best cornerback in average yardage allowed behind only Trumaine McBride from the New York Giants (who also happened to be first in success rate). Gay allowed an average of 5.8 yards per pass on 82 targets. He was 14th in success rate, stopping the “success” 58% of the time, and 11th in Yards After the Catch Allowed with a 2.6 yard average.

Ike Taylor, on the other hand, was listed on the Worst Cornerback list ranking 71st in yards per pass with 8.9, 80th in success rate with a 43% stop rate, and 50th in yards after the catch with 4.1 Definitely a poor showing considering his worst category is success rate which is the one outside/starting cornerbacks should excel in. The chart lists 109 targets for him, which is well more than most of the other cornerbacks, showing that quarterbacks realized they could abuse him and did so.

Considering this data, along with the obvious lack of production on the field last season, William Gay should get the start across from Cortez Allen next year with either Ike coming in and playing in nickel and dime packages or Shaquille Richardson doing so if he can earn his way up the depth chart by then. These rankings vary from year to year, so it’s not time to crown William Gay a great shutdown corner or anything like that, but he can be more productive than Ike at this point. I know the last time Gay got his chance to start it didn’t go over so well, but age has finally crept up on Mr. Taylor and he is a liability that should be used as infrequently as possible.

What say you Steeler Nation?

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  • [email protected]

    Wow, seeing the names and possibilities tossed around as starters in this article really brings home to roost that we should have taken a CB instead of Archer in rd3 – I mean, you KNOW things are bad when we’re talking about starting Willie Gay as our #1 CB.
    I like our draft overall and I like Archer but this is gonna come back to bite us in the ass!!

  • SDAZT_STEEL

    First of all, I’m glad you brought this up Richard, because lost in the shuffle of last year’s mediocre season was the solid play of Gay as the team’s #2 and #3 CB.

    Although he was not tasked w/covering the opposition’s #1 target like Taylor was for most of the year, Gay brought it consistently each weekend and enjoyed what was arguably his finest season at the pro level. He stepped up in the slot as well as outside the numbers when CA was hobbled and going through some growing pains as well.

    While Gay is only 29 and a nice veteran piece to have on the roster in sub-packages, as a spot starter and on special teams, he is only signed through two more seasons and the team desperately needs to revamp the CB position over the coming months. Taylor appears to be in his last year, and whether or not CA will stick around after his contract campaign this fall is a huge question mark.

    Hopefully someone like Brice McCain, Devin Smith, Isaiah Green, Antwon Blake or the group of rookie UDFAs can step up this fall, because Shaquille Richardson is a long way off from making any sort of significant contributions on the defensive side of the ball.

  • Alexander Crimmings

    Yeah ike got a lot of passes thrown at him and that’s because he is covering the number one recievers. Taylor maybe getting old but he is one of the best corners in the business and a bunch of those big gains were blown coverages by the safeties. I would not go writing ike off just yet!