View Full Version : Steelers' Taylor tries to adjust to new and lesser assignment

12-16-2006, 12:49 AM
Steelers' Taylor tries to adjust to new and lesser assignment
Saturday, December 16, 2006

By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

This is the type of game in which they used to call his number.

This is the type of matchup they used to need his speed and coverage skills.

This is the type of assignment that used to require his special attention.

It wasn't that long ago that the Steelers would ask cornerback Ike Taylor to shadow the other team's top receiver. It was only a month ago when they wanted him to cover Denver's Javon Walker, just as he did earlier in the season when Taylor was assigned to follow Miami's Chris Chambers, Cincinnati's Chad Johnson and Oakland's Randy Moss.

This, though, would have been his biggest assignment: Follow Steve Smith, a two-time Pro Bowl receiver, when the Steelers (6-7) play the Carolina Panthers (6-7) at 1 p.m. tomorrow in Charlotte, N.C.

"Steve Smith is one of the best receivers in the game today, if not the best," coach Bill Cowher said. "He's the real deal."

Taylor, though, is no longer asked to shadow the other team's top receiver.

He isn't even asked to cover any of the opposition's starting receivers.

After getting a five-year, $22.5 million contract extension in September, Taylor has been benched for his poor play, all of which began when he gave up two touchdowns and two deep catches to Walker in a 31-20 loss to the Broncos. Taylor will not start against the Panthers, the third game in a row in which he has been replaced by Bryant McFadden. It is a dramatic change for Taylor, the fourth-year cornerback, and how he is employed in the Steelers' defense.

"It ain't even disappointing," Taylor said. "It's more than that. It's crazy. I can't even explain it. I don't know what's going on."

Cowher said a couple weeks ago that Taylor "understands and accepts his role," which is to be the third cornerback in the nickel and dime defensive packages. But the look on Taylor's face suggests that is not entirely the case.

He has been bewildered by his demotion and believes he has been singled out as a culprit for some of the coverage problems in the secondary. He has gone from being the team's shutdown corner to a sitdown corner, and the odyssey has left him, he said, frustrated.

"Darn right, it's frustrating," Taylor said, except he didn't use the word "darn."

Then, he added, "It doesn't even have anything to do with the contract. They said it is what it is. I don't know what that means -- it is what it is?

"I don't know what's going to happen. All I can do is play football. It's frustrating, it's very frustrating, but you deal with it. We all want to be that guy. We all go through tough times. I call it growing pains. We all go through them in life."

Taylor was the guy, starting last year when defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau had him shadow Johnson, a tactic LeBeau hadn't employed since Rod Woodson was one of his cornerbacks. And, in four meetings against Johnson, including this season, Taylor never has allowed him a touchdown. The same is true for his individual matchups with Chambers and Moss, not to mention Chicago's Muhsin Muhammad last season.

That, though, all changed against Walker, who scored two touchdowns on fade passes against Taylor and also beat him for 38- and 61-yard completions. Cowher considered benching Taylor for the next game, even told him he would have to work his way back into the starting lineup. But he changed his mind, and Taylor started the next two games against the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns.

But, when he gambled on a sideline throw to Cleveland's Braylon Edwards that resulted in a 63-yard gain -- the longest against the Steelers this season -- Taylor was finished. He was replaced by McFadden, who has started the past three games and will start again against the Panthers.

Asked if the coaches have given up on him, Taylor said, "No, I don't feel like that. But, at the same time, it's like an up-in-the-air question. I don't know if they gave up on me."

Tomorrow, Taylor will get to play against Smith, who was only the third player in NFL history to lead the league in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,563) and touchdowns (12) in 2005. But his matchups will be limited to those occasions when he lines up against him in the nickel or dime defense.

And he won't follow Smith all over the field when he does.

Time has changed, quickly. And so has his role.

"Just keep doing the same thing I've been doing -- watching tape, going out and practicing hard," Taylor said. "That's all I can do. That's all I know is football. Can't do nothing else but football."


Atlanta Dan
12-16-2006, 07:36 AM
Well - he is under contract and has too high a price tag to cut, so if he is pi**ed off about being benched that's the breaks - Steelers do not care if his feelings are hurt and Taylor knows they cannot afford to cut him, so we get today's story. Sounds like he believes other players have played as poorly as him, a statement with which I agree (e.g. - why do Max Starks & Kendall Simmons not get a seat?) but Taylor certainly earned his current position by his play this year.

Taylor had several bad games but going back to the Jax game I recall sideline shots of Cowher screaming at Taylor, which I believe was because he was not just getting beat but lined up in the wrong position. This seems to be more than giving up some big gains.

12-16-2006, 09:26 AM
Can't understand wha his problem is. Seems like every player stinks it up in the first season of thier contract.

12-16-2006, 10:47 AM
Oh well, he has a right to be frusterated. He'll be back next year, but he'll be working harder in training camp.


12-16-2006, 03:33 PM
SWELLED heads all over the team, thats what ruined this years season.

12-16-2006, 08:15 PM
If he's pissed off about the position he's asked to play then maybe he should play up to the potential that the Steelers saw in him when they gave him the muli-year deal!
If he can't do it in the next 3 games, then he should come back ready to kill someone in training camp!

12-16-2006, 08:26 PM
I think he is more venting than pissed. You can be disappointed and speak out, only meaning to self motivate. And then of course get back to where you started. I think Deshea is old in the tooth and Ike will be back. I would worry if a starter WASN'T frustrated with a demotion........................

12-16-2006, 10:13 PM
Wow I actually have to agree with you Slashsteel! There's a first every once in awhile.
He needs to feel frustrated, and needs to get his head straight to many recievers have been seeing him in there rearview mirror.