Gay Wakes Up The Echoes

Mike Prisuta unloads a notebook of stories about Will Gay, Lawrence Timmons, Danny Smith and rookie Le'Veon Bell.

William Gay wasn't alive in the 1970s but he always had a keen appreciation during his first tour-of-duty with the Steelers of what went on back then and what it meant in Pittsburgh.

If anything, that appreciation of who the Steelers are and what the Steelers stand for was enhanced by Gay having had to endure last season in Arizona.

Consider his response when asked about the Steelers' defense forging on without the iconic presence of James Harrison and Casey Hampton:

"The names on the back of the jerseys change but that still doesn't change our attitude, our goals. We just have to play for those guys now; that's how we look at it. We're playing for the guys that used to be here dating all the way back to the '70s, the Steel Curtain.

"We still feel like those guys are here, everybody. And that's what we represent when we put on that Steeler uniform."

Gay also had a Steeler-like way of cutting to the chase when assessing what happened last year in the desert.

"We went 5-11, we all sucked," he said. "If the Steelers would have gone 5-11 around here everyone would have been fired.

"I rate my performance based off our record and what place we got in our conference. We did terribly in both areas."

Once it didn't work out in Arizona, Gay quickly identified Pittsburgh as his most desirable option.

"The Steelers wanted me back and I was like, ‘Hey, I know this team. I don't have to go through the process of getting to know players, getting to know coaches, getting to know owners.' It was a good place to come back to.

"The team is what makes the actual Steelers, the people that are on it. I've been around a lot of these guys ever since I got into the league. Some are best friends, some are friends; some are guys I look up to. Mike Tomlin is like a dad, so why wouldn't you want to come back home if you have the opportunity?"

As for returning to St. Vincent with the Steelers, "it's different," Gay said.

"We have the Science Hall, that's been trying to get built since my rookie year. That's different; everything else is pretty much the same. It's family, so all they have to do is open up their arms and it's back to normal."

* With Harrison gone to the Bengals and LaMarr Woodley trying to rebound from an injury-plagued, sub-par season, Lawrence Timmons is unofficially The King of the LBs.

Linebackers coach Keith Butler all but anointed Timmons as such while assessing the battle between Jason Worilds and Jarvis Jones for Harrison's old spot and while characterizing the rest of what's happening at linebacker.

"It's Jason's job right now," Butler said. "Maybe it's a competition. It's a competition for Woodley, too. For Larry Foote it's a competition. "Maybe, maybe Lawrence Timmons might not have competition, but the rest of them do."

Woodley impressed during the first goal-line drill of camp on Aug. 3.

"I told him that's probably the old Woodley I'm used to seeing," Butler said.

But Butler quickly cut off a question about whether any clarity was being gleaned at the backup linebacker positions.

"No, no. Not gonna see any clarity until we start (playing preseason games)," he said.

* There may be no shorter-term position in the NFL than Steelers special teams coach, but Pittsburgh native and Central Catholic High School graduate Danny Smith has vowed to reverse that trend.

"This won't be a short-term deal," Smith said. "This will be a long-term deal, I promise you. We'll be pretty damn good, I promise."

Smith is the third Steelers special teams coach in the last three seasons and the 12th since they first added the position to the staff 26 years ago, beginning with Jon Kolb and Dennis Fitzgerald in 1987.

Imagine what the Steelers might accomplish if they ever figure the special-teams thing out.

* Le'Veon Bell rated his performance early in camp as a "five or six" on a scale of 1-to-10.

I rate Bell's performance early in camp as a five or six on a scale of 5-to-6.

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