Cornerback William Gay spent only one season away from the Steelers, comparing it to going away to college and being homesick. But he said he is glad to be home.
Gay, who played on two Super Bowl teams with the Steelers as a nickel back, signed a three-year deal today to return to the team that drafted him on the fifth round in 2007.
"Soon as it hit the wire that I was released, I got a call from the black and gold," Gay said. "That put a smile on my face -- knowing the team that drafted me wanted me back."
The decision to re-sign Gay, 28, gives the Steelers some veteran presence on the depth chart at cornerback and gives them some security at nickel back if Keenan Lewis is not re-signed in free agency.
"They said come back and let's go, let's compete and win games," Gay said when asked what his role will be in 2013. "That's all I want to do -- run out of that tunnel with [number] 22 on."
Gay isn't the first Steelers cornerback to follow this route.
In 2010, they re-signed Bryant McFadden after he left in free agency to play one season in Arizona.
Curiously, McFadden struggled in his return to the Steelers and was eventually replaced by Gay in the starting lineup.
"I came in to win," Gay said. "Just to be back with your family, the guys you grew up with in this league, that's going to be fun."
The decision to re-sign Gay indicates a concern about the lack of development of cornerback Curtis Brown, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who struggled last season in the nickel defense when Ike Taylor was injured.
Brown was the extra defensive back in sub packages because Cortez Allen moved up to replace Taylor. But Brown would be shifted to the outside in the nickel defense and Allen would move to the slot.
With Gay, the Steelers could keep Allen on the outside and use him in the slot if Lewis does not re-sign.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com; twitter: @gerrydulac. For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus.