Zig zags define Ike Taylor’s career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As a rookie, his pure athleticism displayed as a kick returner one of the few bright spots during the dark 2003 season. Accordingly, he went into the 2004 season with great expectations.
Unfortunately, Taylor disappointed in 2004. Not only did he fail to crack the starting lineup, it was Willie Williams and not Taylor, who stepped into the starting role when injuries felled incumbent starter Chad Scott.
Things turned up for Taylor in 2005 in a big way. He played so well as a starter that coaches used him to shadow opponents’ leading receivers – something Bill Cowher had not done since its secondary sported the likes of Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.
Indeed, a source no less authoritative than Dan Rooney cited Taylor’s interception in the Super Bowl as one of the game changing plays.
Taylor’s stock was high heading into 2006, so high that the Steelers rewarded him with a long-term big money deal that kept him off the free agent market.
Taylor again fell short of expectations. While he might have been unfairly scapegoated for the team’s woes in 2006, there is no doubting that Taylor got torched in several big games.
At the close of the 2006 season, many wondered if the Steelers had not jumped the gun in giving big money to Taylor. Steelers Digest’s Bob Labriola even labeled Taylor as “another new job the new coach [Mike Tomlin] must dive into quickly.”
Taylor bounced back once again in 2007. He led the team with three interceptions and 17 passes defensed while adding 90 tackles. He also moved from left to right corner for the Jacksonville playoff game, and in the process secured his third consecutive interception in as many playoff games.
Credit the Tribune Review’s John Harris for reporting that Taylor has continued to play on the right side throughout mini-camp. Although the coaches and Taylor himself are intent on minimizing the significance of this move, Harris does not. Such a move would pit Taylor against many of the opposing teams’ best receivers.
Tomlin was coy when queried about this, but he did let on that: “We want to have flexibility where we play those guys wherever. Whether it’s right or left, whether we match receivers. We’re just giving ourselves flexibility.”
While Tomlin stopped short of saying that Taylor will shadow opposing receivers in 2008, the fact that he’s open to the possibility represents a tremendous vote of confidence in Ike Taylor.
The league’s toughest schedule will test the Steelers 2008. During that ordeal we might see Ike Taylor moving back and forth from right corner to left corner. If that comes to pass let’s hope that this latest zig zag for Ike Taylor turns out to be a positive one.