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Old 12-03-2012, 08:01 PM   #31
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Default Re: Ike Taylor injured

Why Steeler Fans Shouldn’t Worry About Ike Taylor’s Injury

Dec 3rd, 2012 by Craig Gottschalk

The grass started to look a little greener last week for the Steelers, and it wasn’t because of the 70 degree temps either. The team welcomed back Troy Polamalu to full practices and a green light for the game against the Ravens on Sunday. Polamalu was being revered as a shot in the arm to a defense that seemed to be a hair’s breath away from being a dominant force – no not splashy, but shut down force. As the game got underway, fortunes changed quickly once again for this Steelers team who is continually fighting off injury after injury. Ike Taylor suffered a leg/ankle injury during the first series and never returned. A full diagnosis has yet to be released by the team, but most ‘experts’ predict he will be out of the lineup 3-6 weeks. And, while most would think losing your #1 corner would spell monumental trouble for a successful playoff run, Steeler fans should take a bit of comfort knowing who will now have to step up and take Taylor’s place.

The Maturation of Cortez Allen

The 2011 4th round draft pick out of The Citadel stepped into the role of ‘#2 corner’ when Ike Taylor went down with his injury against the Ravens on Sunday. Allen split time with Keenan Lewis covering Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. During the first half, the Ravens challenged Allen often, and Allen rose to the occasion. He broke up several passes – often having to catch up in pursuit after the ball was thrown. Allen’s style is very clear: leave some room, let the pass come in, an reach in to break up the pass even if the body is open for a hit.

It was effective and seemed to frustrate the Ravens offense that they couldn’t break Allen. That didn’t stop them from trying, and in the second half, they were able to complete several bigger passes that lead to a TD and a pass interference (which was a bit of a ticky tacky call at the 10 yard line).

Some might argue that Allen (based on his performance) is not ready for that role, but I think that he fairly ready to take up the mantle. Yes, he was beat a couple of times, but he never let it get to his head. He did not grossly change his coverage and knew that what he was doing worked. Quite frankly, Ike Taylor gives up a big pass on occasion, so there’s no difference there.

Let’s look at Allen’s maturation in comparison to his positional brothers. He quickly became the favorite as the slot cover man late last season in his first season with the team. He continued that role during training camp and all through the season – and has performed very well. Allen’s maturation into the #3 guy was expedited by William Gay’s departure and Keenan Lewis’ subpar seasons. Using those two as a litmus, Allen is years ahead of their development. Look how long it took Gay to be a dependable cover corner. Look how long it took Lewis to move into the #2 role and continue to have shaky weeks. In a defense that touts a large learning curve – 3 years or longer – Allen appears to have the natural talent to swim with the big fish AND possess the brain power to ‘undertand’ Dick LeBeau’s defense. I was very pleased to see his performance last night.

Will Allen be a shut down type corner like Taylor? Eh, maybe not percentage’wise. But, I do believe his ball skills raises the chances of the Steelers picking a pass off on a deep or crossing route. Let’s give Allen the chance he seems to have earned. Facing Rivers, Dalton, Romo and Weeden I expect Allen to be challenged but come out successful. If he gets paired against Dez Bryant it will be a nail biter, but can anyone see Keenan Lewis hanging with him all game? In Allen We Trust.

The Lake Effect

I’m not talking snow. I’m talking about Steelers secondary coach, Carnell Lake. Lake signed on with the team last season as the coach, and I think he is working wonders with the new guys like Cortez Allen. How else can you explain Keenan Lewis’ ability to FINALLY cover guys at least 75% of the game? How else can you explain that both Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown are impacting the secondary and special teams at the same time?

How else can you explain that Will Allen and Ryan Clark have been a force in the safety positions during Troy Polamalu’s absence almost all season? How is it that this defense has been #1 in pass defense two seasons in a row? Sure the secondary is full of talented players, but it’s Lake’s coaching that has gelled it all together. What a stroke of brilliance by the Front Office to get Lake on board.

Steelers Continued Pass Rush Success

The Steelers pass rush is starting to come around after being absent almost all season. James Harrison, as he ever creeps back to 100%, is beginning to gain back that explosiveness off the snap. He may not have all of it back, but his speed is improving as is his strength as he fights off blocks. Joe Flacco became ‘Jumpin’ Joe Flacco during the second half. The pass rush got to him a few times for sacks and hit him just after throws.

This cause Unibrow Boy to get jumpy in the pocket and either rushed throws, threw off target, or a combination of both. There was one series that Lawrence Timmons began a pass rush, and fell into an open part of the pocket – either because he slipped or got hit. He landed three feet short of Flacco, but that presence of a black and gold jersey diving towards him was enough to make him throw the ball early to Smith and it was off target.

If the Steelers can keep this up for the rest of the season, QB’s like Rivers and Romo will have tough days behind their line, as they habitually fold under the pressure.

So Steeler Nation, fret not with Taylor gone. Will it be a smooth ride the next four weeks? Absolutely not. But, the defense is far from dire straights as they race for the divisional title and a playoff spot.

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Old 12-03-2012, 09:16 PM   #32

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Default Re: Ike Taylor injured

Cortez lives here in my home town and attends one of the local churches here. I know his pastor well. In addition to being a great athlete, Cortez is a very fine young Christian gentleman.
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Old 12-06-2012, 01:35 AM   #33
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Default Re: Ike Taylor injured

Pittsburgh Steelers forge forward through injury-riddled season

By Aditi Kinkhabwala
Reporter, NFL.com and NFL Network
Published: Dec. 5, 2012

Sitting at 7-5 now, Mike Tomlin's Pittsburgh Steelers have hit double-digit wins in four of the past five seasons.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake knew the word on cornerback Ike Taylor's ankle wasn't going to be great. He'd already been without super-safety Troy Polamalu for most of the season; now he was losing his shutdown corner for what he'd eventually find out was a few weeks, and so a reporter was trying to offer a measure of consolation.

"Well, two years ago the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl after having to put 16 players on injured reserve," the reporter said. "And last year, the Giants --"

A booming voice came down the stairs at the Steelers facility: "Is that supposed to make me sleep better?"

Eventually, Mike Tomlin's legs followed his laugh; the Steelers coach was clearly getting a kick out of the happy-face attempt. Tomlin chuckled some more, referencing his sleep again. OK, no, maybe the previous two Super Bowl winners overcoming massive injuries en route to raising the Lombardi Trophy doesn't salve the pain of Ben Roethlisberger's achy shoulder.

But the Packers' and Giants' method (getting hot late) should. And Roethlisberger's prognosis -- he's throwing better and might play this weekend against the San Diego Chargers -- should, too. Besides the Taylor setback, the Steelers are getting healthy, their final stretch is wholly manageable and the NFL -- thank goodness for it -- is not the BCS.

The NFL introduced playoff seeds in the 1975 season. Since then, 20 No. 1 seeds have won it all. Of those 20, 18 came before the 2000 season. Translation: In the past 12 seasons, just two No. 1 seeds have won the Super Bowl: the 2003 New England Patriots and the 2009 New Orleans Saints.

Maybe teams that lock up berths early get too much rest. Maybe teams that are still fighting for their playoff lives have to play with urgency every week. Maybe they don't have to flip a switch they've turned off for a bit, maybe they're accustomed to playing on the edge, maybe there really is a lot more parity between seeds 1 and 6. The moral is: In all the excitement about the Houston Texans and New England Patriots, don't overlook the guys who are not yet officially in the dance. Like the Steelers.

During a season that started with two former Defensive Player of the Year honorees sidelined, one that's seen Roethlisberger's MVP candidacy interrupted, Tomlin has not allowed an instance of woe-is-me. ("Excuses," he says, "are the tools of the incompetent.") He demands (almost) the same excellence of fill-ins, he spouts lines like, "the standard is the standard," and, in the midst of it all, his team has a deep-seated confidence in itself as a whole unit.

How else to explain going into Baltimore with a third-string quarterback three days shy of his 38th birthday and handing the nine-win Ravens their first home loss in two years? In the muddied AFC, this is still the Steelers. The Steelers of a recharged James Harrison and of the fastest group of wide receivers in the land.

These Steelers have the NFL's top-ranked defense, they have an offensive line that can push people around, they have three different starting running backs and they're one Roethlisberger away from being a legitimately scary team.

The aforementioned 38-year-old Charlie Batch winning in Baltimore on Sunday certainly gave the Steelers some breathing room. It raised the question of whether he bought Roethlisberger some time, perhaps an extra week to rest, with the woeful Chargers coming into Pittsburgh. Not a chance, according to the coach.

"Obviously Ben is our quarterback," Tomlin said. "If he is capable, he's playing."

Tomlin knows the Steelers have to get hot again, as they were on their four-game win streak before Roethlisberger got hurt, and they have to do it now. He knows confidence and momentum matter, even as he frankly said Tuesday, "They're almost mystical because you can't measure them."

After this weekend, the Steelers have a trip to Dallas and then two more home games, against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns. That Week 16 matchup could well be akin to a playoff game, with either Cincy or Pittsburgh getting to move on. Polamalu is back. Harrison, after offseason knee surgery, is again playing like the man who puts together a game-turning sack-fumble, and Roethlisberger is throwing.

This hasn't been one of the painless 12-win seasons the Steelers have so frequently put together of late, but that might not be bad, come these next two months. A few weeks back, Maurkice Pouncey refused to call the Steelers' run of injuries a hardship, saying, "There's much tougher adversity in the world," and then wondering if the whole roster being called upon now wouldn't help the Steelers down the line. Or, as Tomlin put it: "I do think our team has some unique characteristics that are kind of borne out of unique circumstances or situations."

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