Cornerback William Gay spent only one season away from the Steelers, comparing it to going away to college and being homesick. But he is back and glad to be reunited with his "family."
And he might have cornerback Ike Taylor to thank.
"When he heard the news about me getting released by Arizona, he called me and was like, 'What do you need me to do?' " Gay said. "He thinks he's my agent. So he ended up calling Kevin Colbert himself and said, 'Hey man, you need to get Will Gay back.' "
Gay, who played on two Super Bowl teams with the Steelers as a nickel back, signed a three-year, $4.5 million deal that includes a $500,000 signing bonus Monday to return to the team that drafted him in the fifth round in 2007.
"That put a smile on my face -- knowing the team that drafted me wanted me back," Gay said.
At the very least, the decision to re-sign Gay, 28, gives the Steelers some veteran presence on the depth chart and security at nickel back if Keenan Lewis is not re-signed in free agency.
But it also could indicate the Steelers are concerned about the possibility of not being able to re-sign Lewis, who is an unrestricted free agent.
In addition, it points up the team's lack of confidence in cornerback Curtis Brown, a fourth-round pick in 2011 who struggled in 2012 in the nickel defense when Taylor was injured.
Brown was the extra defensive back in sub packages when Cortez Allen moved into the starting lineup 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 if Lewis does not re-sign.
"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.
McFadden struggled in his return to the Steelers, though, and was eventually replaced by Gay in the starting lineup.
In Arizona, Gay started 15 games in a defense coached by Ray Horton, his former position coach with the Steelers. He had eight passes defensed, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
In five seasons with the Steelers, mainly as a backup, Gay started 37 games and had 235 tackles, three interceptions, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also started three of eight postseason games he played in and was part of two AFC championship-winning teams and the winning Super Bowl XLIII team.
"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."Steelers - mobilehome - homepage
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @gerrydulac. First Published March 5, 2013 5:00 AM