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Steelers Offseason Priorities – Talking To Ike Taylor


By Matthew Marczi

The Pittsburgh Steelers have their work cut out for them coming off consecutive non-winning seasons. It takes elbow grease to get from 8-8 to a contender, as everybody knows, of course, but this offseason, the issue is more complicated than simply improving, due to some uncommon circumstances.

A very large sticking point with many fans in recent years has been the underperformance of veteran players as it relates to their bulky contracts. Nobody still on the books for 2014 has been a better example of that than cornerback Ike Taylor.

While dealing with a smorgasbord of injuries, when LaMarr Woodley has been on the field, he’s held his own. On the other hand, Taylor was responsible for allowing more yards in coverage than any cornerback in the league in 2013, surrendering over 1000 yards on his own based on Pro Football Focus’ data. He also allowed 71 receptions on 113 targets for a reception rate of nearly 63 percent.

Taylor gave up the seventh-most yards per snap in coverage while giving up a reception every 8.6 snaps in coverage—tied for 13th-worst ratio. He was also heavily targeted, being thrown at once every 5.4 snaps in coverage, tied for 15th-most often. His six touchdowns allowed with no interceptions helps contribute to his 110.06 quarterback rating against.

Even worse, Taylor ranked 67th in tackling efficiency, combining to miss 13 tackles between the run and the pass. Tackling efficiency is the total number of tackles made per tackles missed. Taylor made 5.7 tackles per miss. Keenan Lewis made 26 tackles per miss, the most efficient in the league.

Now, Taylor signed a four-year, $28 million contract, the last year of which is this year. It’s fairly widely accepted already that his level of performance doesn’t justify the nearly $12 million cap hit he’s set to cost the team in 2014.

Accordingly, it’s also been widely accepted that the team will likely approach Taylor at some point during the offseason about accepting a pay cut. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette went so far as to say that he expects Taylor to be released if he’s not accepting of a pay cut.

Two years ago, Casey Hampton was willing to accept a $3 million pay cut in order to stay with the team for what proved to be one more season. Last year, James Harrison refused to accept a pay cut of an undisclosed amount, which led to him being released and presumably accepting a lesser contract with a division rival.

Of course, Taylor is not the average football player, as most who follow the team should know. He has a far more personal relationship with his team and his team owners than the average player. The very deep admiration that he has for Dan Rooney and the rest of the Rooney family is evident.

It’s hard to imagine, then, that he wouldn’t be amenable to helping the team out when a few million in cap space could go a long way. The Steelers fairly compensated him throughout his career, and it’s likely his turn to return the favor.

Outside of a pay cut, we have also previously discussed the possibility of a Hines Ward-style ‘retirement’ package, which is essentially an extension that adds no monetary value to the current contract.

Taylor is a prideful player who may never believe that he can’t play at a high level. Additionally, he also has leverage given the critical lack of depth at the position—and not just depth, but size. Given those facts, I think the extension theory certainly has legs. Either way, I would be surprised if Taylor plays this year with a base salary of $7 million.

Previous Articles In This Series
Steelers Offseason Priorities – A Primer
Steelers Offseason Priorities – Finding An Offensive Line Coach
Steelers Offseason Priorities – What To Do With Woodley And Worilds
Steelers Offseason Priorities – Replenishing The WR Depth Chart
Steelers Offseason Priorities – Riding The The Defensive End Carousel
Steelers Offseason Priorities – Extending Ben Roethlisberger

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • steeltown

    He mentioned being willing to take a paycut, of course could’ve been all talk from a guy that likes to talk.

    I had no idea his numbers were that bad, I know he had a bad year and missed a ton of tackles, but I did not know it was THAT bad

  • Matt Manzo

    After seeing those numbers I understand why people want to cut him, but a pay cut and keeping him would be valuable for our team.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Be sure to check out the ESPN NFL page. Bottom left column, there’s a teaser to an article that says “Ike Likes Pittsburgh.”

    Only the picture is clearly of Ryan Clark. [Sigh]

  • kakello34

    All the more reason I think we need to draft a corner in the 1st or 2nd round. I’m thinking Ike may be a pretty good safety as he ages and loses some speed. If we can get a rookie corner to step in i’d consider Ike at safety, but I know how unlikely it will be for a rookie to start.

  • Iron Cadet

    This is why I don’t understand people that say we shouldn’t draft a cb until after round 3. We don’t have 2 years for him to develop we need a more polished cb that’s ready to contribute now

  • StrengthOfVictory

    This article helps to separate draft wants from needs. The Steelers NEED to draft a corner. They NEED to draft a wide receiver. They NEED to draft linebackers (likely one inside and one outside).

    Everything else is secondary/luxury/padding. That includes the O-line, DE, NT, S, and even TE. That’s not to say that these positions are perfect as they stand, but they are not hemorrhaging like the others.

  • steeltown

    Well technically even if Taylor was done any rookie could play behind Cortez and WillieG for a year, but yea we need some quality CB prospects and we need em NOW

  • Rob H

    For the life of me I will never understand why some people keep bringing up the idea of moving Ike to safety. He can’t catch, and he has issues with tackling, which are two of the main things you need to be able to do as a safety…stop it already!!

    Ike’s thing has always been his ability to blanket a receiver in coverage, he clearly can’t do that with the top receivers anymore, but he can still cover most guy’s well enough, understands zone coverage, and is a great team leader. You give him the “ward extension” and let him help the young guys for a year or two and then let him retire a Steeler.

  • steeltown

    Agreed

  • chris ward

    If Taylor is willing to take a pay cut, which I think he is, I’m all for having Ike back with the Steelers. If Taylor doesn’t take a pay cut, Rooney’s will play hard ball and will release him, like they did with Harrison. I expect that Taylor will take the pay cut and will be back with the Steelers in 2014.

  • 243546

    Good call on the Hines Ward retirement package. I think both Ike and Troy will be receiving something like that this off-season.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    I love Ike!

    Replacing his last year with a 3/9 deal that had incentives for playing time in the 2nd and 3rd years would be awesome

  • 243546

    Compare the success the team has had during the Kevin Colbert era with CB’s in the first 3 rounds, versions the last 4. There hasn’t been a noticeable difference in performance between the late round group, and the early round group. With results like that, it’s hard to justify spending an early pick on a CB, unless he’s a elite prospect.

    Also, the CB’s projected to be first rounders in this years draft don’t measure up to what we’ve seen in previous years. Reaching on a player early in the draft, means potentially missing out on an impact player at another position. Everyone thought that CB was one of the Steelers top needs in 2011. Is there anyone who wished that the Steelers had drafted Ras-I Dowling instead of Cam Heyward? Probably not.

  • Jason Chadwell

    How about this idea and I am pretty much throwing this out there. Don’t reach for a CB in the first round. if they can move up and grab ha ha Dixon and leave Shmarko as a nickel corner for one more season. however I would not want it to hamper shmarko’s growth as a safety

  • Jason Chadwell

    I agree with you on necessary picks vs. luxury picks. I would be alright if they did not take a single linemen in this draft

  • Jeff

    I’ve always been an Ike supporter, but wow, I didn’t realize how much of a drop off he really had this past year…. I still want him around contingent upon him taking a pay cut though. I trust him more than the guys we have behind him. Hopefully Cortez can stay healthy this year and blossom into a solid corner for years to come..

  • Iron Cadet

    Just because we have missed on some db picks doesn’t mean we should stop drafting them. Also dowling was a 2nd round pick where as cam heyward was a 1st. So yes I would rather have a 1st over a 2nd. Both dennard and Gilbert look much better than dowling also

  • Iron Cadet

    They could but I’d be way more comfortable with a top cb who only had to sit for a year instead of a “project” who needed 3

  • steeltown

    No doubt

  • westernsteel

    Wow, those stats are awful! Its obvious his play declined, and we should have no reason to believe he will return to form next year. All said, with stats like that, he surely isn’t worth the money anymore.

  • Shawn Winbush

    First, I am with the majority that Ike should NEVER make the move to safety. He is not Rod Woodson or Carnell Lake.They could make that transition with ease because their skill set was better.Anticipation,tackling,and catching the ball. Second,I’m not happy Ike had the down year,but it does give the FO more leverage with the negotiations.I believe they want to retain Ike,but not for that money.And I do believe there is CB and hybird S/CB that can help out immediately in the draft.Not have to sit for “a year or 2″ but help out in certain package and get that on-field experience.Pryor comes to mind,Gilbert, Jean-Baptiste also. All -in-all, I see Taylor coming back @ 2yrs/7mil and retiring a Steeler.

  • AndyR34

    I have a lot of difficulty believing that Ike’s ability just fell off the cliff. Possible, but not likely. Similarly with R. Clark. I am thinking…without the benefit of all the film study done by Dave, Alex, and Matt…that these guys were out-of-position too often because they were covering for or not trusting all of the rookies in the line-up. The Steeler defense is far more dependent upon good communication and folks being in the correct spot than some of the others…one of the reasons that rookies seldom start or play much. If Dave, Alex, or Matt say I’m wrong so be it…but I do not believe it is a sudden collapse of the skill set.

  • John A Stewart

    Ten yard cushion keeping drives alive pass interference no more player’s from Swag University.

  • gene mann

    Ike and the steelers will work sommething out for him to retire a steeler

  • sean mcmartin

    Wow, his stats are surprising. I didn’t realize ike was the worst
    not sure why he has any leverage at all. I think its a no brainer to part ways with Ike. he can’t cover and he gives way too much cushion so many completions in front of him for first downs..another one bites the dust..

  • sean mcmartin

    Agreed. Steelers need a top CB to replace Ike. or a free agent that can play right away.

  • sean mcmartin

    much respect to Ike..he was a great CB for the Steelers and he stays in great shape, even worse what if Troy loses a step this year..yikes.

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