"We always knew we could lose a guy like William," Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We have three young guys in the mix. It doesn't stop us from addressing [cornerback] in the draft. It really doesn't alter any preparation at this point."
Even though Gay enjoyed a bounce-back season, he is really an average corner who projects to be the No. 3 for the Arizona Cardinals. Still, Gay started 15 games for the NFL's top-ranked defense. Whether the Steelers will be hurt by the loss of Gay depends on Keenan Lewis.
A third-round pick in 2009, the 25-year-old Lewis played on the team's nickel defense and is the leading candidate to replace Gay. Lewis, though, has only made one career start and will have to earn that spot.
He showed that he can be a playmaker, sealing last year's 13-9 victory at Kansas City with a leaping interception with 28 seconds remaining. But he has also been undisciplined, getting benched by coach Mike Tomlin in the 2010 preseason after he gave up an eight-yard catch to Brandon Lloyd and then proceeded to knee him.
Lewis will likely compete against second-year corner Cortez Allen, a fourth-round pick from a year ago. At this point, Allen is penciled in as the nickel back. If the Steelers don't draft an additional corner, they can re-sign veteran reserve Bryant McFadden, a starter from 2008 to 2010.