The Steelers spent last week getting under the NFL salary cap, restructuring the contracts of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, wide receiver Antonio Brown and linebacker Lawrence Timmons.
Monday, they used a little of their newfound cap space to bring a familiar face back into the fold.
The Steelers signed cornerback William Gay to a three-year, $4.5-million contract, less than a week after he was released by the Arizona Cardinals in a cost-cutting move.
The signing brings Gay back to a team on which he played five seasons, making 37 starts – including 15 in 2011 – after the Steelers selected him in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.
“I’m glad I didn’t sell my condo in Pittsburgh,” Gay tweeted late Sunday night.
Gay left the Steelers following the 2011 season as a free agent, signing a two-year, $4.95-million deal with the Cardinals. Despite starting 15 games for Arizona in 2012, Gay was released by the Cardinals, who did not want to pay his $3.2 million salary in 2013.
Gay had 60 tackles, two interceptions and one sack for the Cardinals in 2012, seeing action in all 16 games.
He has played 96 consecutive games, the longest current streak by any NFL cornerback after the Steelers’ Ike Taylor saw his streak snapped at 135 straight games last December.
With the Steelers, the 28-year-old Gay helped the team to a pair of AFC Championships and one Super Bowl victory.
He is expected to help provide depth in the event impending free agent Keenan Lewis leaves once the signing period begins March 12. Since Gay was released from his previous contract, he immediately became free to sign with any team.
If Lewis signs elsewhere, Gay will likely serve as the Steelers’ nickel corner, with Cortez Allen moving into the starting lineup opposite Taylor.
Monday also was the final day teams could place the franchise tag on a player. The Steelers allowed the deadline to pass without using the designation, meaning that unless they come to an agreement in the next week, they will have 17 players, including Lewis, wide receiver Mike Wallace, left tackle Max Starks and guard Ramon Foster, hit the open market.