Ike Taylor out vs. Bengals
Steelers' Ike Taylor out vs. Bengals
DEC 18, 2012
The boot is off Ike Taylor's fractured ankle.
It's still too soon, however, for the Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback to slip his cleats back on.
Taylor will miss his third straight game on Sunday when the Steelers (7-7) try to revive their postseason hopes against Cincinnati (8-6) in a game that will likely define the season of both teams.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday he's encouraged by Taylor's progress but that Pittsburgh's secondary will have to find a way to defend Cincinnati's deep group of receivers without its best cornerback.
The Steelers won't have one of their fastest cornerbacks either after fill-in DeMarcus Van Dyke was placed on the injured reserve after injuring his shoulder in Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss in Dallas. Pittsburgh signed veteran free agent Justin King to provide depth, but it will be largely up to Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen and Josh Victorian to slow down Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and second-year receiver A.J. Green.
Victorian, a practice squad player, was pressed into service against the Cowboys and endured a difficult afternoon. Then again, he was hardly alone as Dallas quarterback Tony Romo lit up the Steelers for 341 yards passing and two scores in a rare off day for the league's top pass defense.
Tomlin praised Victorian's effort but knows things are unlikely to get easier while facing one of the best young offenses in the NFL.
''We are going to have our hands full,'' Tomlin said.
The Steelers won the first meeting with the Bengals 24-17 on Oct. 21, holding Dalton to 14 of 28 passing for a season-low 105 yards. The victory kickstarted a four-game winning streak that appeared to put to rest any concerns about Pittsburgh's slow 2-3 start.
A shoulder injury to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and a handful of critical mistakes have pushed the Steelers to the fringe of the playoff race. Pittsburgh has dropped four of five - including two straight since Roethlisberger's return - but have a direct path to the postseason. Wins over the Bengals and Cleveland (5-9) and the Steelers will play into January.
Even if, at the moment, it hardly feels like it.
Pittsburgh appeared to stir the echoes of 2005 after winning in Baltimore on Dec. 2. The players talked openly about going on a playoff run the way they did seven years ago, when the Steelers squeaked into the playoffs then won three games on the road en route to the franchise's fifth Super Bowl title.
The last two weeks, however, look a lot more like 2009. The Steelers were 6-2 at the season's midway point then collapsed down the stretch, enduring a five-game skid to miss the playoffs entirely.
Things aren't quite that bleak at the moment, and Tomlin did his best to quell any sense of unrest by Roethlisberger, who took blame for the loss in Dallas but also acknowledged some frustration about the successful but infrequent no-huddle offense.
Roethlisberger loves the no-huddle and pointed to how well the Steelers moved the ball against the Cowboys as proof it works. Tomlin downplayed the idea Roethlisberger was taking a shot at offensive coordinator Todd Haley in his comments.
''He's on board with what we're doing,'' Tomlin said of his quarterback.
Maybe, but the Steelers have gotten away from the formula that worked so well for them earlier in the year.
The short passing game that thrived in September and October has disappeared in November and December. Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Byron Leftwich have completed just 55 percent (124 of 224) of passes during the team's last six games, down from nearly 70 percent (201 of 288) during the first half of the season.
The lack of any semblance of a running threat hasn't helped. Tomlin dropped the running back-by-committee approach three weeks ago, awarding the starting job to Jonathan Dwyer. The spark Dwyer provided earlier in the season hasn't materialized, though. Dwyer has just 101 yards over the three starts, but Tomlin doesn't appear to be in any hurry to change things up.
The Steelers reinstated running back Rashard Mendenhall from a one-game suspension on Monday for conduct detrimental to the team, but Tomlin said he's ''happy'' with the current situation and will let Mendenhall - who hasn't suited up since a loss to Cleveland on Nov. 25 - practice before determining whether he'll be involved.
Mendenhall isn't the only veteran who has spent most of the last month watching. The Steelers brought back wide receiver Plaxico Burress last month to give Roethlisberger a big target. Burress has just one catch in the two games he's been active.
Injuries in the secondary and along the offensive line have limited Pittsburgh's flexibility to incorporate Burress. And Tomlin is reluctant to give any specifics on when or even if Burress will play over the final two weeks.
''We'd like to include him in the plan,'' Tomlin said. ''Obviously, he has a skill set that we could utilize but all of those things are kind of interwoven as we put together and formulate a game plan.''
NOTES: The Steelers placed LG Willie Colon on injured reserve with a knee injury, marking the third straight season Colon has ended the year on IR. The move freed up a spot for Mendenhall on the 53-man roster ... Tomlin plans to keep using Antonio Brown as a punt returner. Brown fumbled in the fourth quarter in Dallas, giving the Cowboys a chance to tie the game late ... RT Mike Adams (ankle) has been cleared to return to football activities.
Re: Ike Taylor out vs. Bengals
Cook: Ike Taylor invaluable
December 18, 2012
By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ike Taylor's absence in the secondary is showing just how invaluable he is to the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger still is the man despite throwing that killer interception in overtime Sunday in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. He's the one player the Steelers can't lose. Their season took a rotten turn when he went down with a shoulder/rib injury Nov. 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs and had to miss the next three games. They went 1-2 without him and still haven't recovered despite having him back the past two games, losses to the Cowboys and San Diego Chargers.
But there's a new No. 2 man on the Steelers' almost impossible-to-replace list. Ike Taylor has moved past Heath Miller, Maurkice Pouncey and Ryan Clark, who are having Pro Bowl-caliber seasons. He has moved past James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, once a fierce pass-rush combination but no more. He even has moved past 2011 team MVP Antonio Brown and the once-great Troy Polamalu.
Everybody knew Taylor had value to the Steelers, but this much? They weren't able to stop the pass without him the past two games when he couldn't play because of a fractured ankle. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for three touchdowns. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw for 341 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions with a passer rating of 111.3.
It's frightening to think what Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton might do to the Steelers Sunday at Heinz Field if Taylor can't play in what could end up being a winner-take-all game as far as the NFL playoffs go.
"Ike is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL," Polamalu said. "We put him on the best receiver every week. That's big. He shuts them all down."
After the loss to the Cowboys, Taylor wouldn't speculate about his chances of playing against the Bengals. He said his ankle feels better -- he was told he would miss two to six weeks after he was hurt early in the game Dec. 2 against the Baltimore Ravens -- but that he must do what is right and fair for the team. If he can't play, he can't play. At this point, it seems unlikely that he will.
"I've got to be patient, but it's frustrating," Taylor said. "You never want this to happen, but injuries do happen. I've got to deal with it. It's all brand new to me."
The game against the Ravens was the 135th consecutive game in which Taylor played. He thinks he's not used to missing time? The Steelers aren't used to being without him. He never even missed a practice. They almost took him for granted. It's almost as if they weren't prepared for his injury.
Somehow, the Steelers were able to beat the Ravens without Taylor. Nickel back Cortez Allen stepped into Taylor's cornerback spot and Curtis Brown played nickel. Both earned praise from coach Mike Tomlin and their teammates.
But things didn't go well against the Chargers. Brown was awful and ended up being benched in the second half for Josh Victorian, who had just been signed from the practice squad. Allen went out late with a hip injury.
The secondary was just as vulnerable against the Cowboys. Allen missed the game, forcing Victorian to start at corner. Safety Robert Golden was asked to play nickel. The team had to go back to Brown at corner late in the game after starter Keenan Lewis left with a groin injury.
Romo made it a point after the game to say he took satisfaction from winning the chess match against Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "He's good. He's the best there is." Well, LeBeau is good. A Hall of Famer.
But he's not a miracle worker.
Dalton and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green must be counting minutes until Sunday. The Steelers could get Allen back but might be without Taylor and Lewis.
Good luck to LeBeau.
Good luck with that.
"Nobody is feeling sorry for us," Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton said.
"Ike is a great player, but it's out of our hands," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "Guys go down in this business. It's a physical game. That's why you have to be a team. It's not just single guys who win for you. It's not just great players. It's a team. We've got to come together as a team."
That's true. No one will dispute the point. But the Steelers are so much better with Taylor, who never has been regarded as highly as he should be, here or nationally. Tomlin, LeBeau and Taylor's teammates will tell you it's flat wrong that he hasn't made a Pro Bowl.
"The only knock against me is I don't get picks," Taylor said not long ago. "I know that. But how do you define a shutdown corner? Isn't it keeping the guy from catching the football? I think I do that as well as anyone."
Go back to the Bengals' Green. He is a terrific receiver with 85 catches for 1,208 yards this season. His 11 touchdown receptions rank second behind Green Bay's James Jones (12) in the NFL.
Taylor held Green to one catch -- although it went for an 8-yard touchdown -- when the Steelers beat the Bengals, 24-17, Oct. 21 in Cincinnati.
"Look at my tape. Look at anyone else's tape," Taylor said. "I'm just as good, if not better, than anyone you pick."
Taylor had 135 games as proof. It's a shame it took two missed games to make his point.
After Big Ben, cornerback Ike Taylor is the most indispensible player on the team.
Re: Ike Taylor out vs. Bengals
My brother is convinced that Ike's enormous forehead is the reason that Ike can't catch/make INTs.
Just throwing that idea out there... because, I thought that my brother was joking, until I saw that Ike couldn't pull his beanie down over his forehead.
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