View Full Version : Taylor made for guarding the elite

10-08-2009, 11:24 PM
Taylor made for guarding the elite
October 8, 8:46 AMPittsburgh Sports Examiner
Matt Pawlikowski

PITTSBURGH - Last season, the Steelers defense was the elite of the league. But this season its been different.

While some have called them old and others it being the absence of Troy Polamalu, the coaches and players call it something different - situational football and paying attention to details.

"The offense is clicking on all cylinders now, so we have got to just start finishing," cornerback Ike Taylor said. " We are pretty close to doing that, just a little bit here and there. Once everybody gets on the same page, we are all hungry, we all hustle. We all have to do details, just like coach has said fine tune little details."

Silently, Taylor has become one of the elite in the league when it comes to shutting down the best. Last week he held the Chargers Vincent Jackson to just 54 yards while the week prior allowed just 54 yards while having four passes defensed against him.

"Ike is a top quality player, he has a desire to be great," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "His actions match his words in that regard. He prepares extremely hard every week. Heís as good a practice player as we have. Heís always game for those challenges."

Tomlin said one of the things that makes Taylor special is his desire to go against the best and then when doing so, backing up words with actions.

"He and I usually have funny exchanges early in the week, when he comes and asks for those premium match ups," Tomlin said. "Thatís what the great ones at that position and the ones who desire to be great at that position, thatís the mentality that they have.Ē

Taylor says he looks at the schedule prior to the next game and then goes into Tomlin's office and asks

"I look at a schedule for that week and I say coach can I need him can I get him," Taylor said. "It's a yes or no, but we have an understanding of who I match up with best and then give it a go. We just have an understanding,on and off the field.We joke about a lot of things."

Yet while he is being praised by his coach and some of his teammates, you won't find Taylor basking in the limelight. Instead he talks about it being a team sport.

" For me there is always room for improvement. This is a we thing not an I thing everything goes hand in hand. They look forward to me doing somethings, and I look forward to the front seven doing some things."

Still while Taylor has done a great job covering the best wideouts in the league this season, its hard not to notice the absence of Polamalu in the middle of the field.

"Iím not going to dispute that," Steeler coach Mike Tomlin said. "But at the same time Iím not going to use that as an excuse.

Polamalu is not listed as out for the game in Detroit, has practiced this week and wants to see action against the Lions. But Ford Field has an artificial turf which is hard on players legs.

Despite their struggles, his teammates are hoping he can hold off hitting the field for at last another week or so, rather than risk injury on the turf.

"I would rather have him for the last 10 or the last stretch," safety Ryan Clark said. "rather than have him come out and injure himself again and set himself back."


Pittsburgh sports icon Stan Savran is in intensive care today after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery. Savran is known for his show "the Sports Beat", which was the longers running sports show in Pittsburgh history. Here's to a speedy recovery Stan.


"It's the nature of the beast, it's probally around that time where the younger guys start to replace the older guys, So it wasn't a big surprise to us." linebacker James Farrior on Larry Foote being released by the team.

Pittsburgh sports icon Stan Savran is in intensive care today after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery. Savran is known for his show "the Sports Beat", which was the longers running sports show in Pittsburgh history. Here's to a speedy recovery Stan.

10-09-2009, 01:33 AM
I like Ike, but I hate his hands :chuckle: I'll take lock down coverage over great hands any day. If he had both he'd be working on a Hall of Fame career right now.

10-09-2009, 03:39 AM
You're right about Ike's hands. He have about 5 INTs so far.But that's five knock downs and for that we should be grateful. He should still make the pro bowl this year.It seems like I heard he was working on his catching technique during the off season.
I think they brought in Dwight Stone to work with him. LOL Anyone remember him? "Hands of Stone"

10-10-2009, 09:37 AM
He is so very underated........

10-10-2009, 11:37 AM
Taylor develops into elite cornerback
By John Harris
Saturday, October 10, 2009

At the time, the request seemed unimaginable.

There was Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker and captain Joey Porter seeking and receiving an audience with then-coach Bill Cowher prior to the start of the 2005 season. Porter suggested a lineup change he believed would enhance what was already a championship-caliber defense.

Porter requested Cowher replace veteran cornerback Chad Scott, a first-round draft pick selected after the team failed to re-sign Rod Woodson, with a little-known fourth-round draft pick who didn't become a defensive back until his final college season.

What appeared to be an uneven exchange at the time -- replacing a proven player with an unproven one -- now looks like a stroke of genius.

Since taking over for Scott in 2005, Ivan "Ike" Taylor has become a rising star in the NFL and arguably the Steelers' best cornerback since Woodson left following the 1996 season.

Among the league's elite corners, a group that includes Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha, Dallas' Terence Newman, Denver's Champ Bailey and former Pitt standout Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, Taylor is the only player who isn't a first-round draft pick. Taylor's success was unexpected.

In retrospect, Porter said Taylor was exactly what the Steelers needed in winning two Super Bowls in four years.

"At that point, we had some guys that weren't getting it done. Chad Scott and Dewayne Washington were getting older. It was starting to show in their play," said Porter, now with the Miami Dolphins. "Ike was shutting down guys in practice. He showed us time after time he was ready to start. His confidence was always big to me. That swagger, you love to have that in a corner. He would ask to play man-to-man on the best receivers. Most young guys don't do that."

Porter said he used his status as a team captain to make a case for Taylor.

"I just felt like I had a personal relationship with Cowher to where I felt the guys were comfortable with Ike," said Porter, who is fourth in Steelers history with 60 sacks. "(Cowher) just wanted to know we were going to be comfortable with the move. We were having problems in the secondary. We had a dude I felt was ready to play and the other guys felt was ready to play."

Truth be told, the Steelers made an even bigger gamble when they drafted Taylor from Louisiana-Lafayette.

Taylor was the 125th player selected in the 2003 draft -- and 16th among cornerbacks.

Steelers pro scouting coordinator Doug Whaley said Taylor, a converted college running back who was an all-district defensive end at Abramson High School in New Orleans, needed time to develop.

"When I saw him, he had everything physically you were looking for in a corner," Whaley said. "The reason why he was drafted where he was, he didn't have the technical skills of a corner. It was sort of a gamble.

"You don't see a lot of guys making that switch at this level with limited experience, but special guys can."

The Steelers made Taylor their third overall draft pick, after popular first-round selection Troy Polamalu and second-round bust Alonzo Jackson. The Steelers traded their third-round pick that year so they could move up in the first round and take Polamalu.

Taylor said his selection wasn't popular with fans or the local media.

"Nobody expected me to start. When they drafted me, some people wrote this guy will be a hell of a special-teams player," said Taylor, who averaged 22.5 yards on 37 kickoff returns as a rookie.

It took Taylor only three years to make the prodigious leap from small-college corner to a starter with one of the league's most storied franchises.

The story becomes more remarkable when Gary Bartel, Taylor's college defensive backs coach, recalls how his pupil made the switch from running back.

"I tried to get Ike on defense. I talked to the head coach but he wanted him to return kicks and be a running back," Bartel said. "The spring before his senior year, they made a coaching change. I needed a cornerback, so I went into the coaches' office where we had our depth charts and took Ike's name off the running back list and put it over with the cornerbacks.

"We sat down as a staff and went over the personnel boards. When we got to cornerback, Ike's name is up there. I said that Ike was a gifted athlete and had a lot of skills and I thought he would be a natural at cover corner.

"It worked."

Taylor was discovered by longtime talent evaluator Dave-Te' Thomas. In previewing the 2003 draft, Thomas called Taylor the most gifted athlete since Deion Sanders.

"When Ike was a senior, everyone was going to Louisiana-Lafayette to see Charles Tillman (drafted by Chicago in the second round that same year). I arrived during spring camp and saw Ike running sprints while scouts were looking at Tillman," said Thomas, currently the director of operations for NFL Scouting Services. "I asked Ike to run a 40(yard dash) for me. He said he would run after practice when he could take his equipment off. I told him to run with the equipment on. He ran a 4.35 on my stopwatch. After practice, he ran without equipment and clocked a 4.21. Right then and there, I put him on my radar."

Oh, but those hands. A defensive player throughout high school who had 18 receptions in his only season as a college running back, Taylor struggles to catch the ball and has dropped numerous interceptions.

"It's those dropped-ball interceptions," Taylor said of why he believes he hasn't made the Pro Bowl. "But looking at everything I can do, I think it's kind of overrated."

As the top cornerback for the defending Super Bowl champions, Taylor is assigned to cover the opponents' best receiver each week.

In his past two games against Cincinnati and San Diego, Taylor held Chad Ochocinco (five receptions, 54 yards) and Vincent Jackson (four receptions, 56 yards) in check.

"People think we double Chad. But we just put Ike on him," safety Tyrone Carter said. "He's been doing a great job on him through the years."

Next up for Taylor, who leads the Steelers with seven passes defensed this season, is Sunday's head-to-head matchup with Detroit Lions big-play receiver Calvin Johnson.

"Ike has a desire to be great," coach Mike Tomlin said.

That, of course, is what Joey Porter imagined in 2005.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

10-10-2009, 03:05 PM
Ike Taylor is an elite CB IMO. He is our best CB and does a great job of shutting down the opponent's best WR each week.

10-11-2009, 03:22 AM
Ike`s been playing like a man possessed so far this season.
Interceptions would be nice but so long as he continues to shut out whoever he is playing against then I`m happy....I like Ike.:tt02:

10-11-2009, 09:24 AM
Alien vs. Taylor: A blockbuster
By: Mike Bires -
Beaver County Times

Sunday October 11, 2009 12:04 AM

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (24) breaks up a pass for San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Taylor in the second half of the NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009. The Steelers won 38-28. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

DETROIT — Today when Ike Taylor meets Calvin Johnson for the first time, it may be akin to an extraterrestrial experience.

After all, the Steelers have been describing the Detroit Lions’ star wide receiver as someone out of this world.

“An alien, if you will,” coach Mike Tomlin said.

Tomlin’s “alien” description has more to do than just Johnson’s enormous size-19 feet and his long, massive hands. Johnson is a freak because of the speed and agility he possesses for a man his size.

But Taylor, the Steelers’ shutdown cornerback, isn’t afraid of the daunting task of covering the 6-foot-5, 236-pound Johnson. On the contrary, he welcomes it.

Taylor always wants to go up against the opposing team’s best wide receiver.

“Each week I look at the schedule and say, ‘Coach, I need him. Coach, can I have him?’” Taylor said.

More often than not, Tomlin obliges. Just as Bill Cowher did when he coached the Steelers.

On the Steelers’ depth chart, Taylor is their right corner. But over the years, Taylor has been assigned man-to-man duties on such star wideouts as Indianapolis’ Marvin Harrison, New England’s Randy Moss, Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and Cincinnati’s Chad Ochocinco. In those cases, he shadows them wherever they go, regardless of where they line up.

More often than not, Taylor holds his own.

That’s why Tomlin didn’t blink when Taylor asked to defend Johnson, a third-year pro taken with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft.

“There’s no maybe about that. Why hold that secret? Ike Taylor will be following Calvin Johnson,” Tomlin said. “Ike is a top, quality player. He has a desire to be great. His actions match his words in that regard.”
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Taylor, a larger than average cornerback at 6-2 and 195, has been assigned to shadow three receivers so far this season. He drew Devin Hester in Chicago, Ochocinco in Cincinnati and Vincent Jackson last week in the 38-28 win over San Diego.

In each case, Taylor got the best of those match-ups.

l Hester caught four passes for 21 yards.

l Ochocinco caught five passes for 54 yards.

l Jackson caught four passes for 56 yards.

None of those three caught a touchdown pass.

“Every time he gets that kind of match-up, Ike gets excited about it,” free safety Ryan Clark said. “Really, we’ve been having this same conversation for years now. Ike’s not a guy who shies away from the challenge. He plays his best when he gets that opportunity. This year has been no different.”

Arguably, Johnson is the Lions’ best player right now. Last year, he caught 78 passes for 1,331 yards and 12 TDs. This season, he’s caught 21 passes for 323 yards and one score

“He’s special,” Clark said of Johnson. “If he’s not playing for Detroit, a lot more people would know about him. If you watch him play, for a guy who’s 6-5 and who runs routes like he does, that’s why Coach Tomlin called him an alien. He’s big and he can run. I don’t know of any receiver like him.”

That’s exactly why Taylor wants him. And that’s why Taylor will get the “alien” today in a classic cornerback vs. wide receiver showdown.

Mike Bires can be reached at mbires@timesonline.com