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11-18-2006, 12:46 AM
Taylor waits for good days to return

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, November 18, 2006


Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has been around long enough to know that great receivers are going to make their share of catches and big plays.
So when Denver's Javon Walker had six receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and New Orleans rookie of the year candidate Marques Colston had 10 catches for 169 yards, Taylor chalked it up to a couple of bad days at the office.

Taylor knows how it works, because the situation was reversed last year when he shut down all comers in the regular season and took his game to another level in the playoffs against Cincinnati's Chad Johnson and Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison.

It used to be that teams respected Taylor so much they rarely tested him. They still respect him, but the fear factor is gone.

Teams will keep throwing at Taylor until he forces them to stop.

"At the cornerback position, you can't mess up,'' said Taylor, who signed a five-year, $22.5 million contract prior to the season. "Defensive lineman messes up, nobody knows about it. Linebacker messes up, nobody knows about it. But for a secondary guy, there's no way we can mess up.''

Taylor isn't about to hide. His style is to live and let die. His life has been an open book lately. His mistakes have resulted in touchdowns, and his job security is an issue for the first time since becoming a starter last season.

The week after Walker lit up Taylor like a Christmas tree, coach Bill Cowher said Taylor could lose his job to second-year cornerback Bryant McFadden. Just like that, Taylor went from Super Bowl hero to regular-season question mark.

Taylor remained in the starting lineup against New Orleans, but the Saints continued to throw right at Taylor because he has given up big plays.

The Steelers have struggled against the pass. After the Steelers began the season with one of the best defenses in the NFL, the secondary has become a weak link.

Taylor, the team's highest-paid cornerback, is catching most of the blame, and rightfully so.

"Sometimes it just takes time, you know? Right now, it's just taking time with me,'' Taylor said. "Nothing's changed. Stick to the basics. Stick to what you've been doing. It's just some guys making plays. But that'll change. Things will turn around. My breaks are gonna come.

"I have to make my plays to the point where they say we're not going to come at this guy no more.''

Last season, and for the early part of this season, Taylor lived a charmed life. He shut down the Bengals' Johnson in the third game of the season, and his reputation was solid gold.

But it seemed like when teams went away from Taylor and completed passes across the field against cornerback Deshea Townsend, the tide turned.

The Steelers were burned for two touchdown passes against San Diego, four touchdown passes against Atlanta, three touchdown passes against Denver, and one touchdown pass against New Orleans.

All of a sudden, it didn't seem to matter if teams were throwing against Taylor or Townsend. Receivers were getting open, catching the ball, and scoring touchdowns.

Taylor is being attacked with short passes, and then double-move patterns. He has been beaten on pump fakes, out-and-up routes, and fade routes in the red zone.

Despite the lack of a pass rush, the Steelers took away the fade routes against New Orleans, but quarterback Drew Brees still picked them apart underneath for 398 passing yards.

Taylor fully expects Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye to open tomorrow's game at Cleveland Browns Stadium throwing to his side of the field to Braylon Edwards, another rangy, big-play receiver in the mold of Walker and Colston.

"If I was the offensive coordinator, I would. Come on and try me, that's how I feel,'' Taylor said. "Keep playing with me. It's not going to work the way you want it to.

"I still got 'swag' (swagger). You can't lose that. When you come at me, I've got to make plays to let you know: Not on this corner.''

With all of that said, the Steelers defensive backs have to cover better, and no one knows that better than Taylor.

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