What If Ike Taylor Could Visit The Wizard Of Oz?

By Michael K. Reynolds

Who was the most relieved guy in Pittsburgh last Sunday?

Without a doubt it was Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. Because had the Black and Gold failed to roar back against the Detroit Lions he would have been wearing the longest goat horns.

Not so much for struggling in his efforts to cover All-World receiver Calvin Johnson, because nobody has been able to cover Megatron this season. No, what would have haunted Ike and all of Steelers Nation was the two, surefire, easy peasy, Pop Warner-style interceptions that slipped helplessly through his hands.

At least one of those could have resulted in a pick six and with a couple key blocks the other had the chance of adding up to a pick twelve for the day. Yes…had they lost, and the season for all practical purposes ended, the nightmares would have resounded throughout the year for one of the Steelers all-time favorite players.

But Ike rebounded in the second half. The Steelers won. And all is forgotten.

Except, it does bring up one question: What if Ike could visit the Wizard of Oz?

Can you imagine him, arm in arm with Dorothy, skipping down the Yellow Brick Road and singing in harmony?

I could be a Hall of Famer
Everyone would know my namer
If I only had some hands.
Dee dee, dee, dee, dee, dee.

I’d be as famous as Tom Brady,
Have Gisele for my old lady,
If I only had some hands. 

And yes, perhaps this is too cruel of fun to have at Ike’s expense, but with only 14 career interceptions total in his eleventh season in the NFL, the tape is the tape. For those of us who have suffered through his Achilles Heel all of these years, we can remember just about every one of his agonizing drops.

This all does lead to a very critical question in regards to his career.

What if Ike did have hands?

How great of a cornerback would he be? As it is, there is a strong case for Ike being in the top five of all Pittsburgh corners based purely on his shutdown abilities. But if he could convert the literally dozens of interception opportunities he squandered through the years, would he rank as the best Steeler cornerback of all time?

Of course, the name Mel Blount rises to the top of the heap as not only one of the best to wear a Steelers uniform, but one of the best defensive backs period. But what about with today’s rules? Back then you could mug all those wimpy receivers. Strip search them like a TSA agent and leave them in a tattered heap, not only within the first five yards, but all over the field. How would Blount fair using today’s touch football, Prima Donna-friendly refereeing?

What about Rod Woodson, my personal, favorite, all-time Steeler player? (Okay…Swanny, you’re up there too.) With a pair of hands, how would Ike compare with the track star from Purdue?

Favorably.

Ike entered the league with 4.2 speed, able to rabbit with anyone in the league, and at 6’2, strong enough and tall enough to handle the Michael Irvins and Randy Mosses of the NFL. And although, Woodson was a tremendous playmaker and a player the Rooneys always regretted letting go, he also could be had. The pump fake made Rod look foolish on more than a few critical occasions. There was a lot of boom or bust in Rod’s style of play.

With Ike, he is rarely, rarely, more than inches away from the outstretched hands of his receivers. Sure, he’s been known to draw more than his fair share of pass interference calls, but he has elite ability to cover receivers of all shapes, sizes and speeds. And unlike the great Deion Sanders, who was known to make quite a few “business decisions” when it came to being physical, Ike Taylor provides exceptional support with the run.

Is it too late for Ike? Will he ever be able to catch the ball? It would be well worth his continued effort. Nobody takes care of their body better than Ike does during the season and off-season and because of this it wouldn’t be a surprise if he is able to play for another four or five years, perhaps extending his career with an end-stop at safety.

Until he does learn to clamp onto the ball, Ike will be respected, but never feared. If you’re not a threat to intercept, quarterbacks will continue to throw in your direction, regardless of how tight the coverage. In fairness to players like Woodson, there is much more to intercepting than having good hands. You’ve got to have great anticipation, vision and body control.

But bless his heart. Even with those slippery rock hands, a decent argument can be made that the proud graduate of Swaggin University has been the Steelers most valuable defensive player over the past decade.

What do you think? How great could Ike be if he could find his hands?

Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers fanatic and author of the acclaimed Heirs of Ireland series. MichaelKReynolds.com
  • SteelersDepot

    Hands like feet.

  • JAMESH

    As “Clank” Taylor has said himself, if he could catch the ball we wouldn’t be able to afford him.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    My friends at school kept asking how ike got blown by that cj touchdown ? The truth is its hard to cover Megatron but it wouldn’t have hurt if Clark helped him in that play. Overall I think Ike and the rest of it CB’s are good but it kills me how they don’t play man to man on every WR they might as well give them the yards. I know ike has the potential to b an elite CB like Sherman and Revis

  • Elijah Stevenson

    It just surprised me that he was on the losers list

  • Shannon Stephenson

    did you watch the game?

  • Matt Searls

    He would finally be on the nfl top 100 show which he always complains about not being on

  • Lamarr56

    Ike really is one of the most underrated players in the league. Outside our Steelers fans, Ike really is not too well known. All people really seem to notice is who’s getting interceptions. Ike can shutdown a receiver with the best of them. If he did have hands, I think Ike would have all the hype that Revis does.

  • http://pittsburghsportsinat.blogspot.com/ bgsteelfan

    One thing about Ike regarding his hands: He knows he doesn’t have them and jokes about it when it comes up. I am sure somewhere he regrets the lost money from that, but then, we would never have paid the money required to keep him if he had hands.

  • Elijah Stevenson

    I know he had two dropped balls that could have won us the game.

  • Lucus Rodriguez

    More hype

  • CW

    If he had hands we’d have lost him years ago to the Redskins on one of Snyder’s spending binges for the mythical postseason Super Bowl.

  • Steve

    Ike has had games that cost his team the win, such as in Denver in the playoffs.

  • JAMESH

    That was not on Ike.

  • RW

    Top defensive players of the last decade, in order: 1) Troy Polamalu, 2) Aaron Smith, 3) Casey Hampton, 4) James Harrison, 5) James Farrior, 6) Ike Taylor. He doesn’t crack the top 5. Still my favorite player, though.

  • RW

    Who thumbs-downed that? I’d love to see any attempt to displace any one of the 6 people before him…

  • Busforever

    If he had hands, i wonder if he would have been used the same way – basically man on man, asked to shut down the first WR. With hands, maybe Lebeau would have made him play zone, just to see the throw coming. And maybe we wouldn’t be there, knowing how great he is as a shut down CB.

  • Felix from Montreal

    That’s why they have the phrase “cover corners”. Like they say, if they could catch they’d be wide receivers.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Johnson had 170+ yards and 2 TD’s on him plus a couple of penalties and 2 dropped picks. Does not sound like a winner to me but if you think so that is fine with me.

  • SteelersDepot

    Despite my poke at Ike, he is one of my favorite players currently on the roster. He will never be known as a shutdown guy, but for the most part, always limits the player he faces and is always in position. He plays the defense as instructed and has a very short memory.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Seeing what the team looked like when he went down at the end of last year tells you that he’s probably won us more games than he’s lost us.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    He’s a very good corner and one of my favorite players, but his lack of hands is a real detriment. (Have you ever seen anyone over the age of 6 so bad at catching a football?) Since the worst that can happen to the opposition is an incomplete pass when you throw at him, it allows teams to take many more chances than they would against other corners with his coverage ability. Just the occasional interception would be enough to scare teams away from him and make opposing offenses more predictable.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Nice list…I’d swap James H. to 2nd bump Smith to 3rd and Hampton to 4th but I’m just splitting hairs at this point. Hard to argue what Aaron Smith has meant to this defense. Now if we could only find another one of him.

  • Steeler Wheeler

    Big fan of Ike’s, very good player. With hands, better than Rod Woodson? That is blasphemous. Ike has the Denver game, penalties, penalties caused by bad attitude. I like the way Ike helps in run support, but Rod Woodson was god like in that area. If my memory is correct, Woodson never laid back 12 yards giving a 7 yard out and he also NEVER got help. Jumping a pump faked double move attempting to make a good play would equal 6 points without QB pressure, but Woodson was the major reason for top ranked defenses…Taylor is a very nice part, but he is no Rod Woodson.

  • dkoy85

    Not to mention 2 sloppy missed tackles.

  • Asmitty56

    The reason Johnson had such great success in the first half was because Clark and W Allen bit on play action and pump fakes and put them out of position. In the second half they stopped biting and the result was Johnson getting shut down and Allen getting a pick. No CB in the league can stop Johnson one on one through out a game, but I will fault him for dropping 2 easy INTs.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    If he could catch, there is no telling how great he could have been. Look at some of the great backs, Lott, Woodson and think of what they could do to change a game or affect the entire defense. Great at corner, then great at safety later in their careers. These are the type of guys that could probably play on offense if you asked them to do so.

    Ike isn’t even close, but if he could catch then he might at least be up there with Woodson.

  • SteelCity

    Mel Blount and Rod Woodson are two of the all-time greats. Period.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Forgot to mention that but yeah…that too..lol

  • Shannon Stephenson

    You are right that he does not deserve all the blame but he is partially to blame because he is on Megatron.

  • John Hinton

    Perhaps Cam Heyward is making his bid to be the next Aaron Smith.

  • John Hinton

    Very well-stated!

  • Asmitty56

    Again, you won’t stop Calvin. The best you can really hope for is to tackle him for no yards, which he did miss a few tackles.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    OK…so Ike takes no blame for Megatron getting all those yards…not sure why we even tried to put anyone on him since he is unstoppable.

  • Reader759

    Woodson would jump double move and still catch receiver. haven’t seen ike run down a off player in a long time

  • Asmitty56

    I’m not saying he gets no blame. I’m saying Clark and Allen should get the majority of the blame, or at lest equal. Taylor was never going to cover Calvin one on one, the safeties bit on play action and pump fakes and hung Taylor out to dry.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    We seem to be going in circles Asmitty56. My comment 2 up says that he should only have partial blame. Your last comment seems to reflect that as well.