Steelers CB Taylor still driven by Pro Bowl berth
One of the must-have traits for an NFL cornerback is impeccable timing.
When it comes to the Steelers’ Ike Taylor, there are few in the league who can measure up to his physicality, run support and, most of all, his ability and willingness to guard the best receiver on a weekly basis.
But Taylor could work on his timing a little bit.
Taylor has put together back-to-back Pro Bowl-caliber seasons, but what he’s remembered for is Tim Tebow picking him apart in the 2011 wild-card loss to Denver and Matt Hasselbeck doing the same last year in an embarrassing loss to Tennessee.
Both were on national television, and both seem to sully Taylor’s otherwise impressive résumé.
“What I say to that is 11 years,” Taylor said. “Regular people don’t even have day-to-day jobs for 11 years let alone playing in the NFL. They are going to say what they are going to say, but look at the tape.”
The tape is revealing.
Taylor allowed only 30 receptions last year before having his streak of 135 consecutive games snapped by a broken ankle; eight of those came against Tennessee. After the Titans breakdown, Taylor allowed only six receptions over his final seven games.
When Taylor gave up 204 yards to the Broncos, including the game-clinching 80-yarder to Demaryius Thomas in overtime, he had allowed an unheard of 28 yards per game during the regular season.
“I know a lot of guys in this league respect Ike,” cornerback William Gay said. “When a receiver gets on the field and sees No. 24, he knows what time it is.”
Taylor’s reputation likely should be better across the league because he does what only a handful of cornerbacks do, and that’s follow the best receiver wherever he goes. Taylor’s been doing it since midway through the 2005 season, when he was assigned to Cincinnati’s Chad Johnson and held him to four receptions and no touchdowns.
“Not too many guys do that,” Gay said. “Guys just want to play left or right. Ike can play right, left, slot. Wherever that No. 1 receiver goes, he’s going. If he is in the backfield, he’s going to play linebacker.”
Eight years later, Taylor still gets the top assignment every week and wouldn’t want it any other way.
“That’s not for everybody,” Taylor said. “Going against the toughest (receiver) week after week, not too many people want that. There are only about three guys doing that every week.”
But that has yet to translate into something Taylor desperately wants: a Pro Bowl. His theory: Taylor has just three interceptions over the past two years, but he has had limited opportunities because offenses rarely through his way.
“His physicality sets him apart from a lot of corners in this league,” receiver Antonio Brown said. “His toughness and how hard he works, and put that with his confidence, and that makes him one of the best.”
Still, that elusive Pro Bowl drives the 33-year-old Taylor.
“Is it a personal goal of mine? Yeah, sure,” Taylor said. “But feeling that my career is incomplete? Nah, man. I don’t know what corners in this league have two Super Bowl rings, three Super Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl interception.”
Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.