View Full Version : Room for Improvement

08-15-2006, 06:25 AM
Room for improvement

By Mike Prisuta
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Steelers left cornerback Ike Taylor has come to training camp seeking a contract extension and an eight-figure signing bonus.
First, the free-agent-to-be will have to reclaim the starting job he won for the first time a season ago.

"We've told them on the record it's an open competition," assistant defensive backs coach Ray Horton said Monday.

That goes for the Deshea Townsend-Bryant McFadden battle at right cornerback, and for Taylor, who emerged last season as a player the Steelers had enough faith in to match up one-on-one against the oppositions' best receivers in the second half of 2005, including the playoffs.

One by one, Taylor shut them down, from Cincinnati's Chad Johnson to Indianapolis' Marvin Harrison to Denver's Rod Smith to Seattle's Darrell Jackson.

But this summer, it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately scenario playing out at St. Vincent College, particularly with Ricardo Colclough having perhaps the most consistent camp of any of the cornerbacks (not including Colclough's misadventures on special teams).

"This has been, I think, a trademark of the Pittsburgh Steelers," said Horton, who is entering his third season on Bill Cowher's staff. "You look around, and in years past the guy that stepped in for the incumbent or a guy that lost his job due to injury or whatever for the most part has played better.

"The Larry Footes, the Ben Roethlisbergers, Willie Parkers, you go down the line of guys that have stepped in, they've played well and performed well. And so nobody has a lock on a job anywhere. We have three more weeks of open competition to see who the best two starting corners are, and we'll play those two guys."

It's almost inconceivable Taylor won't eventually emerge as one of those, unless injury intervenes. But when the head coach uses the word "atrocious" to describe his team's third-down defense, as Cowher did following Saturday's 21-13 preseason loss at Arizona, no one should be feeling especially good about or satisfied with his individual performance.

Taylor isn't.

"From a (scale of) one to 10, I'd give myself a six," Taylor said. "There's a whole lot of room for improvement."

Against the Cardinals, Taylor surrendered a reception and allowed former Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to run through a tackle for a 13-yard gain on third-and-7 on the first third-down attempt of the preseason.

Six plays later, quarterback Kurt Warner lofted a pass over strong safety Troy Polamalu and in front of Taylor that Fitzgerald turned into a 20-yard gain on third-and-13.

The march culminated when Warner hit Bryant Johnson in the end zone before Taylor could close on third-and-goal from the 5. The Steelers blitzed but apparently neglected to cover anyone, offering Warner his choice of targets.

That play produced six for Arizona and contributed to a six Taylor considers unacceptable on his performance scale.

"I need a 10 all the time, especially playing cornerback, because you never know what might happen," he said. "I have to work my way up every game. I have to get better, from that one-to-10 status. Every week it needs to go higher and higher."

His uncertain contract status neither distracted nor influenced his play, Taylor maintained.

"I'm back with the boys. I'm just happy to be back playing football," he said.

Taylor's agent, Scott Smith, has been negotiating an extension with the Steelers since before training camp. The Steelers will entertain such talks until the regular season begins. Unless a deal is imminent at that point, they'll table the issue until after the season.

"We're having a dialogue," Smith said. "It's a process. We're going to remain optimistic and work as hard as we can to get something done.

"Ike wants to stay in Pittsburgh. We're going to continue to work until the final hour."


08-15-2006, 06:39 AM
Based on recent reading I've done...this kid seems to have his head screwed on straight...

I hope this works out...:cool: :cool:

08-15-2006, 01:28 PM
im not totally sold on him. he might be the best corner the steelers have ever had on the team but he is not even in the top five corners in the league right now. i think it will take some time.i want colcough to get his chance as a starter.