Q&A: Ray Horton

Steelers DB coach Ray Horton sat down with Fox 970's Jim Wexell and Greg Linelli for a radio interview after drafting Keenan Lewis in the third round. Horton said that with two big corners, "the possibilities are endless."

Ray Horton, DB coach, Pittburgh Steelers

Q: What can you tell us about Keenan Lewis, Ray?

A: Excited to have him. He was one of the guys I had targeted very early, a big corner. Everybody's always talking about wanting a big corner that can run, well he's a big corner that can run. Six-foot, 200 pounds, 4.48, 4.43, 4.45 – can catch the ball, can hit, can tackle, everything a Pittsburgh Steelers corner's supposed to be in the mold of Mel Blount, so we're going old school on 'em.

Q: I know you were looking at a lot of mid-round corners – Joe Burnett, Don Carey, guys like that – and a lot of them were return men, too. Did the drafting of a return man earlier in the third round (Mike Wallace) allow you to go get a big corner?

A: Absolutely it did. It freed us up to take a defensive player and not a multi-position player. Obviously, if you can get both you do. But this allowed us to do something on the defensive side that we haven't had in a while, to have potentially two six-foot corners, 200 pounds, both fast, strong, physical guys that you can actually say, ‘Let's change our defense a little bit to do what maybe these guys do best.' Put Troy (Polamalu) in the box and let the rushers rush. The possibilities are endless.

Q: He made 47 career starts at a big school. He won't be overwhelmed, will he?

A: He better not be. Coming from the Pac-10, it's a pro-style offense in that league, and to have 47, 48 starts is remarkable and to be that type of player. Not only that, we take a lot of guys off the board because of character, and this guy is a guy who's up there at the top because of his character and what he wants to do. He'll fit in here perfectly.

Q: Isn't it difficult to get character and talent in one player?

A: It is, but that's a big part of who we are. You look around the league; there are guys that end up causing you problems. Sometimes they're real good players and sometimes they're not worth the headache. That's one of the thing we do: We take guys off the board because of character because we figure somewhere down the line they're going to cause you a problem or they're not going to be on the team. With the headaches, and the money you're paying them, it's not worth it.

Q: In a locker room full of good character, can't you make one allowance?

A: You would hope so, and a lot of people do. I think we're in the fortunate situation where we don't have to. We don't have to take a risk on a guy just to get the talent to go over the edge. We're over the edge. So, nah, we don't need the character risk to put us there. We have some fantastic people who've been successful the last four years I've been here, and of course before that, so why even risk that kind of headache? But you see it every year with guys that move on from team to team to team to team because guys keep saying, ‘We can control him.' Well, the guy before you thought the same thing.

Q: You lost Bryant McFadden, so you need depth, don't you?

A: You do. In the Super Bowl against Arizona, they put four wides out there. Part of the problem playing against us is they don't want four wides because they don't block, don't protect, so that helps, but you absolutely have to have quality depth.

Q: Do you think William Gay can step in opposite Ike Taylor?

A: I do. If you remember a few years ago, when he was drafted, I made the comment, ‘He's a Deshea Townsend type,' and he is. He's a smart kid who picked up our system. He's been like a vet from Day One. In fact, we had to get him away from the vets. He will step in and be a smart player because he understands the game. Last year, technically, he was my best corner. Maybe athletically he wasn't the best, but as soon as he came in it was like, ‘Wow, this guy's technique is sound and he understands what's going on.' I was not shocked, but I was very impressed.

Q: He graded better than Deshea?

A: Yes.

Q: Does Deshea know this?

A: Uh, you know, Deshea is wise beyond his years. Deshea is a guy who I guarantee, if he wants to, will move right into coaching. They see it. You can't hide talent. Guys see it. It's on film, on the field. They can see it in the classroom. They can hear it. I think people have real big expectations about Will Gay this year.

Q: Dick LeBeau last year called Gay ‘Coach Horton's find.' So you're known as the guy who discovered him, aren't you?

A: I wouldn't say that, but I was watching him on film and the kid stood out. There are certain things you see that just equate to what we do. We weren't able to draft him unless we had the physical, so we rushed down there and got the physical on the kid and talked to him and saw how bright he was. Sometimes that's all you need. You see film and once you talk to a kid it validates everything you see and hear. Whether he was a find or not, I don't know, but he's a gem for us.

Q: Did you have Keiwan Ratliff in Cincinnati?

A: No, I did not.

Q: But he had his career game against you guys last year, so he's No. 4, and you have Fernando Bryant, and then the rookie(s), and then the special-teams guy, Anthony Madison, so you'll get to keep six or seven corners, won't you?

A: I don't know about that. We've got a good balance right now and I'm looking forward to throwing them out there and letting them play football.


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