Steelers Free Agent Focus: Will Ike Taylor Return? Don’t Expect it Steelers Nation

There’s no pleasant way to put it.

The day of reckoning is coming for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ike Taylor as the aging veteran reaches the end of his contract. Here is how the situation stands.

Capsule Profile of Ike Taylor’s career with the Steelers

The Steelers defense sagged badly in 2002, and Kevin Colbert and Bill Cowher wasted little time in the 2003 NFL Draft in rectifying that need. First they traded up to draft Troy Polamalu. Next they took outside linebacker Alonzo Jackson in the second round, and outside linebacker who proved to be woefully unworthy of the Number 95 which he wore.

  • The Steelers had no third round pick, but they selected Ivan “Ike” Taylor in the fourth.

Taylor played mainly on special teams in 2003 as a rookie, and although he was expected to win a starting spot in 2004 he didn’t. Still Taylor showed promise, and broke into the starting lineup in 2005, and by the end of the season he was shadowing opposing team’s best recievers – a role he played until mind 2013.

In between, Taylor played as one of the best, if unheralded cornerbacks in the NFL. Taylor’s play never won a lot of praise or accolades outside of Pittsburgh because he couldn’t hold on to interceptions, but Taylor was a true anchor on two Super Bowl defenses, and several others that simply finished number one in terms of yards allowed.

The Case for Keeping Ike Taylor

This is a tough one. Its true that the Steelers have little depth at cornerback. William Gay is the only proven veteran player. Cortez Allen has regressed terribly. Antwon Blake and Brice McCain played better than expected, but how much more upside does either have?

In theory, Taylor could provide veteran depth. Or perhaps he could even move to safety. On paper it almost makes sense….

The Case Against Keeping Ike Taylor

…Once upon a time the Steelers had an aging corner whom some coaches and some front office personnel felt was done. Dan Rooney suggested moving him to safety. He let his football men make the decision, and they decided to let him go.

  • That player went on to start in two Super Bowls as a safety and is now in the NFL Hall of Fame.

The corner who converted to safety after leaving Pittsburgh is of course Rod Woodson. If he did it, why can’t Taylor?

That’s where paper analogies break down. Rod Woodson had 16 interceptions playing under Chuck Noll alone. Ike Taylor has 14 in his entire career. In his prime Taylor did a lot of things well, but intercepting the ball was not one of them. That won’t change at age 35.

Taylor took himself out of the game vs. the Bengals, didn’t return to play for the rest of the season and was OK with it.

Curtain’s Call on Steelers and Ike Taylor

Ike Taylor had a fabulous career with the Steelers. Since the season ended, Taylor’s made noises about thinking he can still play. If he has to scratch that itch, so be it. Perhaps Dick LeBeau will welcome him to Tennessee or perhaps Bruce Arians will invite him to Pittsburgh West.

He may play in 2015, but Ike Taylor’s time his time in Pittsburgh should and will come to an end.

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