Against the New York Jets this coming Sunday, several storylines will be in play. Two offenses that are struggling to find the endzone. Two good defenses going head to head. The homecoming of former Pitt Panther, Darrelle Revis and the homecoming of former Steelers Super Bowl MVP, Santonio Holmes. Within the Holmes homecoming story lays an even bigger story.
It is no secret that the Holmes will likely be lined up most of the afternoon on Sunday across from Steelers cornerback and good friend Ike Taylor. Taylor has very quietly put up another great season as he has been thrown at 78 times and only allowed 45 catches for a 57.7% completion rate. He has intercepted 2 passes and allowed just 1 touchdown through the first 13 games this season. Taylor is not noted or talked about as a top shutdown corner in the league, but he is very consistent and normally plays smart.
Steelers 2010 Cornerback Stats
At the end of this season, Taylor will become a free agent as he currently is in the final year of his contract. The Steelers are not deep at the position and fellow corners William Gay and Bryant McFadden have had their struggles at different times this season. Gay also is playing on a one year tender so his future is up in the air as well. The only promising young corner on the depth chart right now might be rookie Crezdon Butler. Butler has been active for only a few times this season and played only on special teams. He is an unknown commodity at this point. 2009 draft pick Keenan Lewis seems to have lost the confidence of the coaching staff and his future is very cloudy right now.
It would seem like a slam dunk that the Steelers would want to lock up the 30 year old veteran right corner, but they have a few other players in final contract years that need attention as well. Most notably is left outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who likely will desire a contract in the 40-50 million range. Also unknown right now is how the new CBA will play out or if an owner lockout will take place.
Taylor is no spring chicken, but if he has another good performance against Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery on Sunday, the price tag might tick a little higher on Ike. He no doubt would like to end his career in Pittsburgh and has restructured his contract a few times in the past to help free up cap room for the Steelers. He is said to have a great relationship with the Rooney family, but sometimes money, not friendship, talks the loudest. Good veteran cornerbacks usually hit the jackpot in free agency as of late and I see Taylor fitting the mold of what other teams might covet in the offseason easily.
As you watch Taylor play Sunday and hopefully shut down Holmes and the Jets, keep in the back of your head that every incomplete pass, every pass defensed and every interception, if any, made by Taylor, is likely to make the price tag increase on the Swaggin University grad even more and his last game in a Steelers uniform could be a close reality. Hopefully the Steelers can find a way to get one last contract done with Taylor, but nothing is guaranteed at this point. Let’s just get past the Holmes homecoming first. After all, it is the bigger storyline.