Healthy Taylor not ready to throw in towel

August 18, 2014
Cornerback Ike Taylor took a pay cut to stay with the Steelers. - Associated Press

PITTSBURGH – To be considered overrated, you first have to be rated.

At least Steelers’ cornerback Ike Taylor has that going for him.

Monday Morning Quarterback, an internet site run in conjunction with Sports Illustrated, recently put together a team of what it considered the NFL’s most overrated players. Taylor was listed, along with Miami’s Cortland Finnegan, at cornerback.

Maybe Taylor has finally arrived.

Most of the other players on the list have made it to at least one Pro Bowl. But Taylor has never received that honor.

The 12-year-veteran has a couple of rings that you get when you win another kind of bowl, the Super Bowl.

What does bother Taylor is his 2013 season.

He allowed an NFL-worst 1,043 yards in receptions last season, a total highlighted by a two-game midseason stretch in which Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Josh Gordon of Cleveland combined for 20 receptions for 416 yards and three touchdowns while working mostly against Taylor.

“He was playing with some injuries last year,” said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. “True professional players do that. But he didn’t use it as a crutch. You didn’t hear it from Ike. But I could see it.

“We needed him out there. But it affected his play.”

It nearly affected his future with the Steelers.

With the Steelers looking for some salary cap relief and Taylor now 34 years old, he was asked to take a pay cut or be released. Taylor chose the former.

“I don’t want to be anywhere else,” Taylor said. “I can’t see myself anywhere else.”

Taylor took a $4.25-million cut in pay to stay with the Steelers. Now he must prove that his 2013 season was an aberration, not a portent of things to come.

The Steelers hope that’s the case.

One thing is certain – Taylor’s confidence isn’t shaken.

“You can’t get Ike down. If Ike gets beat 10 times in one day, he’s still going to be talking trash,” said fellow cornerback William Gay. “That’s the good thing about him. He’s the definition of a corner. If something bad happens, you forget it and move on. That’s what I like about him. If it gets too high, he’s the same person. If it gets too low, he’s the same person.”

But can a 34-year-old cornerback be what he was just a few years ago? Taylor thinks so. The Steelers hope that’s the case, though they won’t have Taylor shadow the opposing team’s top receiver as he did in previous seasons. That long-running plan was scrapped last season after the games against Johnson and Gordon.

“I was banged up last year, probably the worst I’ve ever been during the season,” said Taylor. “But my pride won’t let me sit down. My pride won’t let me take a day off. It’s just that your teammates know you’re playing hurt. They know your mental toughness.”

As he has done for several years, Gay spent the offseason working out with Taylor. He’s seen Taylor’s rigorous workout scheme up close. And he’s seen no signs of Taylor slowing down.

“It’s had to keep up with him,” Gay said. “He’s still running hard. I don’t see any difference in him. The man thinks he’s 22 and looking for another deal.”

Another contract likely won’t come from the Steelers, who have spent the past couple of offseasons working to get younger.

That’s where Taylor’s pride comes into play. He doesn’t want to be remembered for what happened in 2013. He doesn’t want to be on the overrated list at the end of the season.

“There are going to be years like that if you play long enough,” Taylor said. “You’re going to have a couple of games like that. You’ve got to bounce back from it.”

Odds and end zones

The Steelers released offensive lineman Bryant Browning and wide receiver James Shaw and signed offensive lineman Graham Pocic and Dayone Nunley. Pocic was released by the Bears last week. Nunley had a tryout with the Steelers in the spring. … Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he anticipates playing at least half the game Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles and would like to run the no-huddle for at least one series in the road game. … Long-snapper Greg Warren said the surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee went well. Warren is expected to miss three more weeks.

Dale Lolley has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1993 after previously working at WJAC-TV and the Tribune-Democrat in Johnstown, and The Derrick in Oil City. A native of Fryburg, Pa., he is a graduate of North Clarion High School and the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, where he earned a degree in journalism. He has covered the Pittsburgh Steelers since joining the Observer-Reporter in 1993, and also serves as the outdoors editor. He also is a radio host for Pittsburgh’s ESPN 970-AM, and serves as administrative adviser for the Red & Black, Washington & Jefferson College’s student newspaper.

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