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Steelers May Be Better Off With One More Year Of Clark Rather Than Taylor


By Matthew Marczi

Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert fielded questions yesterday from the local media, during which he was asked about the secondary depth. His answer was equally candid and obvious, suggesting that the organization didn’t exactly have a level of comfort at the moment regarding the current quality of depth.

He also alluded to the fact that the answer to that question was tied to what kind of departures the position could face this offseason. The most obvious candidate would be of course Ryan Clark due to the fact that he’s a free agent.

On the other hand, re-signing Clark and releasing Ike Taylor, in the last year of his contract and the possessor of a nearly $12 million cap hit, would likely be the cheaper option. The Steelers could save $7 million by releasing Taylor.

Meanwhile, Clark’s total cap hit in 2013 was just under $5 million between his base salary and the proration of his signing bonus. His base salary was $3.5 million, and while he intimated during the season that he would not be open to taking a bargain, even he likely realizes that it might be difficult for him to find that kind of salary anywhere in the league.

Even Ed Reed, a future Hall of Famer, signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Houston Texans last season, and that was with a team coming off a Super Bowl victory, which many of their free agents profited from.

The entire league saw how well that contract worked out for the Texans, as Reed was cut in the middle of the season despite having $6 million guaranteed. Thus, even if Clark’s expectations might be high right now, the market could very well be telling him a different story a month from today.

Given their respective ages and recent decline in performance on the field, it’s likely that neither Clark nor Taylor have more than a year or two at best to offer the organization. And one could argue that the Steelers would be better off both financially and schematically with one or two more years with Clark than with Taylor.

Even if Taylor agrees to a $3 million pay cut, which is the figure many have been throwing out when debating the issue, one has to figure that Clark could be re-signed for less than the difference between that cut and the total cap savings of an outright release (which would be $4 million).

And the Steelers, in theory, could be better suited to replacing a starting cornerback than a starting safety, because they have two safeties that are capable of playing the slot.

If you have William Gay and Cortez Allen starting, both of whom have starting experience in the defense already, then, at worst, you could have Shamarko Thomas playing the slot, and he has already shown admirable man coverage abilities.

Thomas spent the early portions of the season as the nickel back as it was. There is also Robert Golden, who was a college cornerback who made the conversion to safety, but can still, obviously, play cornerback.

It’s more likely, in my view, that Clark’s 2013 performance was an aberration than was Taylor’s. A big part of Taylor’s game was his speed, which he is now gradually losing. He’s not the type of cornerback that can shut down an opposing team’s top target any more. And Gay was more reliable against the run than Taylor was, which used to be one of his strengths.

Alternatively, I think many of Clark’s missteps throughout the season—outside of the missed tackles—could be traced back to the defensive shake up going on around him. He started to play outside of the scheme, unnecessarily trying to undercut shallow routes while letting the ball go over his head. This really shouldn’t be something that can’t be fixed, and it’s certainly easier to make up than lost speed.

This probably isn’t the most likely scenario, by any means, but I think it’s an idea that is at least worth considering as a thought experiment. Might the Steelers be better off with one more year of Ryan Clark than they would be keeping Ike Taylor through the last on his contract, even if that comes at a reduced rate? I think it’s hard to say.

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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.
  • Berlusconi

    Good point. However, I still think Shamarko is better suited to replace a safety than a cornerback, considering that the Steelers play a lot of nickel.

  • Chris Cain

    Wow.. You rather have William Gay starting at CB.. Instead of Ike..

  • Callentown

    I would DEFINITELY prefer having Ike as another DB on the field vs Clark.

    Ike fell off, but there’s no depth in the backfield and Ike knows this D better than anyone. Even at Nickel, if they can cut the salary way down, he’d be valuable next season.

  • walter mason

    Ike will take a pay cut

  • steeltown

    Statistically WillieG was our best CB last season. Normally I wouldn’t agree but if last season is a sign of things to come regarding Taylor then I would rather have WillieG and C.Allen starting

  • dgh57

    I think if you cut Taylor you would have to then sign a FA CB because it would send a much more clearer message(and because of NO depth at CB)where we’re going in the 1st rd. of the draft. Our problems in the secondary can still be solved via the draft and FA so you could at least conceivably cut both Taylor and Clark though that’s not the ideal way I would want to go about it.

  • cencalsteeler

    Reading your statement reminds me how bad we need secondary help.

  • steeltown

    Agreed. The serious issue arises when someone gets injured… who starts then? We have no depth behind C.Allen and WillieG… Please draft 2CBs!

  • Matt Manzo

    Good curve ball! I just love Ike too much to be done with him.
    Depth at CB is bad, but the same for Safety too!
    I just want to get the young guys playing time. I say draft a Safety before round 4 and let him and Shark split time at FS. Get him them both some playing time.
    Take CB in 1or 2 and get him on the field as much as possible. We are kinda rebuilding, at least the secondary, so we’re gonna have to take our lumps.

  • Ken

    This is the worst argument I have seen ever posted. Clark isn’t the same player he was. Ike is darn close. The defense is already struggling, you take away a Ike Taylor we are in big trouble.

  • Ken

    I think a year of Willie Gay as a starting cornerback and you would think it was a mistake. Willie Gay is decent when you don’t ask to much of him. That is asking too much.

  • chris ward

    I think Ike will take the pay cut and will be back next year. IMO I would much rather have Taylor back then Clark in 2014. Regardless Safety and Corner are areas the Steelers need to attack heavily in the draft and get some young talent that can develop in the system.

  • Steelmill 74

    Clark has been an awesome Steeler BUT there is no way he should be on the roster in 2014. The money saved is not worth it. Keep Taylor in 2014 for sure, we have no depth at the CB position.

  • cencalsteeler

    The secondary is our last line of defense. Retaining Clark or Taylor would just equate to more explosive plays. To think their play will improve is just ridiculous. If there ever was a time to be proactive in free agency, now is the time. FA, Allen, Shark and Troy starting, with Gay, Golden and draft picks as backups.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    If we can find a way to save the 7 million with Ike without releasing him….that is the ideal scenario. Even if it becomes say 5 million in savings, it really helps. You then also need to draft 2 CBs and replace your S. I wonder about us looking at someone like Roman Harper who is to get cut by the Saints….could he help for year or 2 at safety?

  • Nolrog

    I wouldn’t bring back Clark. He’s done. There’s nothing left in the tank. Ike can still play.

  • Steve

    Clark is not signed this year, he is a Free Agent.

  • Steve

    Only way we should bring Ike back is at a reduced rate. He can still play but at a slower pace. Willie and Allen can be the starting CB’s with Shark and Troy at Safety’s. Ike can come in as the nickle and dime back.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    Go get Alterraun Verner from Titans (c’mon Munchak..!!) and draft Calvin Pryor. Clark and Taylor are expendable at that point.

  • Jollyrob68

    If your cutting Ike over having him take a pay cut then just say goodbye to both.

  • dgh57

    Hypothetically speaking as though Clark was signed for 2014.

  • PA2AK

    aside from last year…i agree completely. He is meant to be a nickel guy or a sub guy. However, he was thrown into the starting lineup and performed. there was a lot asked of him last year…he delivered.

  • steellife007

    I just don’t see too many options IMO….Clark’s contract is up and after the way he played last season I don’t see how you can justify signing him. He needs to be cut loose; I would rather see a 3rd or 4th rd rookie play in his spot if it even had to come down to that IF Shark could not handle FS or switch Troy to FS and let Shark take over SS….either way good bye Clark. As far as Ike goes, they can cut him too if he does not take a significant pay cut….same theory here; after the way Ike played last season I can handle seeing just about anybody play CB….but if he takes a pay cut I would welcome him back to see if it was a down yr or not. I am pretty sure he has lost a step or two either way but I think he could be a great matchup to play against bigger TE’s like Gronk & Graham, etc. in Nickel formations at the very least…..but no pay cut=no black and gold in IMO. So good bye Clark and if no pay cut good bye Ike…..and hello youth! However, no matter who is on the backend for us the front seven must establish more pressure before our defense can get back on track.

  • NW86

    Interesting thoughts, and yes, looking at it purely financially, Clark could be brought back on a minimum veteran qualifying contract and would be much cheaper than Ike. But, IMO, there is a vast difference in their abilities at this point. Ike may have had a few bad games (actually just a few bad PLAYS which everyone noticed), but he can still play CB. We might not be able to count on him to consistently shut down the top WRs in the game in single coverage anymore, but let’s be honest, there are only a handful of DBs in the game that can do that. He can still be a cover corner, equal to Cortez, and wherever the top/fastest/most dangerous WR lines up, that’s where you put the safety help.
    Clark, on the other hand, played pretty poorly all year with consistency. Then there’s the fact that he runs his mouth too much and I honestly think it’s getting under the organization’s skin. I just don’t see him back, even for the minimum.

  • CrazyTerry

    a mere 3M paycut for Taylor??? if Colbert offers Taylor a new salary more than 2M a year , he is crazy. Ike Taylor aint worth more than that.

    SHOW ME A SINGLE TEAM THAT WOULD PAY HIM MUCH MORE THAN THAT

  • Steeler Fanatic

    How ’bout one year of neither? They have been .500 the last two years WITH those two. Both of them have done a lot for the organization but a) Ryan Clark is turning into Skip Bayless and b) We can’t have corners who can’t get turnovers. Why is the media (and maybe the FO) so afraid of taking a step back to make 10 steps forward?!? I disagree, Ryan Clark seems to be always a step slow and whiffed on a variety of open field tackles. Draft a corner and bring in a free agent safety.

  • steeltown

    He started opposite Taylor in 2011 the year before he left and he played very well, part of the reason ARI signed him away

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I think clarks play would be better if he was to stay another yr because the year before he was in beast mode but got a couple of concussions which i think had him playing soft now that hes sees he can play the whole season without getting injured his confidence should be back along with his playing styles

  • cencalsteeler

    You mean the Kazoo helmet isn’t confidence enough? Seriously though, I actually thought the same thing early on and was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I can see a game or two, but a full season? Nah. Clark will never be the same as he used to, he’s gun shy. It’s in his head now and he tackles, or attempts to tackle, cautiously because of it.

  • AndyR34

    If you thought our defense was bad last year wait until you have rookies playing safety and CB.

  • AndyR34

    How does 6-10 sound?

  • Matthew Marczi

    This is a devil’s advocate type of article, posing a hypothetical scenario. It’s not about Ike vs Gay, it’s about Ike and Clark and the discrepancy between their financial compensation, as well as the probability of improved play from last year. Personally, I don’t know that I would do this, either, but I would probably be considering it.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Sorry, but I disagree strongly that Taylor is ‘darn close’ to what he once was.

  • Steelers12328882

    I don’t really care what happens with Ike, but I’m almost positive Clark won’t be back no matter what. I can see both Troy and Shark starting at Safety for us.

  • Josh Knepshield

    Are you crazy? Ike was horrible this year. He was a bottom 5 CB in all of football. Clark on the other hand was an ok safety.

  • Josh Knepshield

    Clark has a lot more left in the tank than Ike, who was one of the worst CBs in all of the NFL last season.

  • Jazz

    Two more years of Ryan Clark? Are you kidding me? Speed! It was clearly evident last year that was the the #1 main reason why the secondary got torched. Yes, I know they need some experience back there, but that ship has sailed, mainly due to the fact Colbert has drafted poorly in the middle rounds of the draft the past six seasons plus. Time to move on, even if they start off slow once again, eventually they will have to move on from Ike, Ryan and Troy. It’s reality; and Ryan Clark played like S#it last year, it wasn’t an aberration, it was reality. See if Ike will take a hefty paycut, move Ike to cover the slot, slide Cortez Allen on the outside with William Gay or a Rookie. Sooner or later a new kid will have to step in and take over.

  • WIINGY

    They should both be gone. Ryan Clark is a Free Agent.

    The Steelers are allowed to look at Free Agents from other teams.

  • Matt Manzo

    I don’t think keeping Ike and or Clark means we’ll be better than 6-10. Id rather go 6-10 without them than with them.

  • WIINGY

    ^^^^^THIS

  • WIINGY

    They are both done!

  • WIINGY

    Cut Ike and save 7 million.

    After he goes jobless in Free Agency. Sign him for the vet min.
    Enough of this pay cut crap.

  • WIINGY

    the sad truth…

  • WIINGY

    hahahahaha. big trouble?

    How about giving up 55 points to New England, an offense that was struggling!

  • tim

    Which is why the Steelers will most likely keep Taylor, because of the lack of depth at conerback….

  • sean mcmartin

    taylor had a terrible year stat wise, I think the point being even if ike plays for minimum he is not going to get faster. He was a great CB ..but time to move on. defense needs to be addressed in the first two or three rounds. and if they don’t plan on drafting a starter. They must hit free agency and get a starter

  • dgh57

    I’m putting a hypothetical situation out there and did you not read I said I didn’t say it would be the ideal way I would go about it!

  • Tom

    I think any chance of Clark returning went out the window with his last case of
    “diarrhea of the lips”

  • theo

    the steelers need to stop playing these games and get rid of all of them its time to get younger and faster or nothing will change draft 2 cornerbacks and a saftey

  • steeltown

    yep

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    you must have slept through the 2013 season if you think clark was better than he was, saying we would be better off in 2014 is like saying his victims would be better off if jack the ripper had two knives.

  • Steve

    We had shark playing safety last year and he was a rookie.

  • Steve

    How about 10-6 in the playoffs for the Steelers?

  • Steve

    Both need to be ex comunicated as we bring in new blood. Neither could tackle and were slower than my 90 year old granny.

  • Steve

    Ike can take his self else where. He knew he was terrible and that is why he wanted moved to safety.

  • Steve

    Both need to go on with their lifes work.

  • Steeler Fanatic

    Sometimes it’s not the physical aspect of the players, it can be the mental side of things and how they carry themselves. Both have been good leaders and of high character. But I also think when you’ve been in a situation for 10-years plus, complacency is normal…more so for Ryan than Ike. I think young guys with fresh attitudes and a willingness to learn is also a factor. Ryan just has opened up wayyyyyyyyyyy too much about the locker room. I like them both but they can’t move on by keeping the status quo. And lately the status quo has led to mediocrity, even with a franchise quarterback.

  • alex

    i like the sound of it but then you have guys playing out of position temporarily that need to learn what there future full time position will be in this difficult D…

  • Brian Miller

    I agree. The time has come when we must start using more rookies all around the team, on offense AND defense. I know this used to be “impossible” according to a lot of people, but we don’t have a choice. It is the only way to reload and get back to our position of power 6 years ago. Oh, and we can’t be drafting any Limus Sweeds either…

  • Wil Masisak

    A lot of what you probably think was Ike’s fault last year or was Ike losing his speed was Clark (and Troy and Allen) failing in their responsibilities in coverage. Clark made mental mistakes, appeared to be avoiding contact, and played the run poorly. Taylor can still play, although it’s time to begin adjusting his salary to be more in line with where he is as a player. Clark, on the other hand, is someone I don’t want back at any cost, especially considering his divisive remarks over the past year and a half. This article is incredibly misguided.

  • Josh Knepshield

    Did you watched Ike play last season? He allowed 1st down after 1st down after 1st down in MAN coverage. He gets beat SO easily on inside slants. When he gets beat, he always smacks his hands together, like “I’ll get him next time.” It’s time for him to go.

  • Wil Masisak

    I did in fact watch him… the Steelers play mostly zone, so your take that he was beaten again and again in man doesn’t hold up. What might look like man to you is probably off man with safety help. When the safety bails or blows coverage, it makes the CB look foolish or slow because he’ll probably be in trail technique, where it appears a receiver is running away from him. Taylor had a rough first 25 minutes vs Calvin Johnson but Megatron does that to everyone.

  • Wil Masisak

    Safeties were abysmal in that game and no pass rush.

  • Wil Masisak

    Ike is a Steeler for life who is beloved in the organization, keeps himself in excellent shape, and VOLUNTEERED to go to safety IF IT WOULD HELP THE TEAM. He’s going to retire as a Steeler someday, hopefully with another ring or two.

  • Wil Masisak

    Also, Taylor’s play in the last 2+ quarters of the game vs Calvin Johnson was some of the best of his career.

  • Wil Masisak

    If you believe that stupid piece of trash site PFF

  • Wil Masisak

    There is zero chance Clark comes back at a minimum or even reduced salary. He';s already on record as saying he won’t give a deal and he is a staunch NFLPA guy.

  • Steve

    Ike maybe a workout warrior but he played terribly in 2013. He may be Volunteering to move to Safety, but he is slow and old and cannot cover anymore. We can save 7 million by releasing Taylor.

  • Steve

    You must be blind, wanna use my glasses next time you are watching Ike? Clark is not signed, so Adios to him.

  • Wil Masisak

    I don’t think Ike is all that much different than he’s been for a few years– does a good job at his coverage responsibilities but is not a ballhawk by any stretch. You save 7 million but we have zero and I mean NONE depth. Gay is a slot CB who has never been great on the outside. Curtis Brown is a washout. Isaiah Green? Please. Taylor for at least another year makes too much sense AND chances are he looks good with improved safety play behind him and better pass rush in front of him. Besides, he is the consummate Steelers player right now. Troy and Ike will retire Steelers. Now, you want to talk about cutting Heath Miller to save some jack, it’s a different conversation.

  • Josh Knepshield

    Contrary to popular belief, Ike plays a good amount of man coverage. The Steelers “trust” him, and it rarely works out.

  • Josh Knepshield

    My bad, I’ll listen to a well known guy by the name of Wil Masisak. He is the go to guy for this type of stuff. Lol

  • Josh Knepshield

    Yeah, don’t cut Ike, the horrible old CB, but lets cut Heath Miller. Heath, when he is healthy, is a top 10 TE in the league. And what TE depth do we have? This guy. Lol

  • Wil Masisak

    … and now I know you’re a Steelers homer. Heath might be the most overpaid Steelers player not named LaMarr Woodley. He had a catastrophic knee injury one year ago and has almost zero athleticism– he can be covered by a DE or LB. He’s a dependable target, especially when WRs are threatening the outside and deep but his post-injury play was not good.

  • Wil Masisak

    I’d like to know where you looked at all-22, identified Ike playing man, and identified how often it “works out”. I see mostly C3, just like they’ve done for years. In that coverage, he more or less has man to the outside and help inside. You can usually tell because the CB playing the #1 is in an outside-leveraged position and off.

  • Wil Masisak

    Well at least I have covered the Steelers and NFL for 6 years– those guys are from England and barely know what the sport is.

  • Josh Knepshield

    What did you expect? He tore everything in his knee. When he is healthy, he is a top 10, maybe even top 5 safety. Sign him to an extension, but CUT HIM?! We have no TE depth.

  • Josh Knepshield

    How about we look at every time we have trusted Ike against top receivers. Larry Fitzgerald ate Ike Taylor’s lunch in 2011. Demaryius Thomas OWNS Ike. Calvin Johnson embarrassed Ike. Oooh, my bad. His second half was “great” in that game. It was obvious they were covering his a** in the second half, and it was more of a group effort. How about him getting beat deep by Torrey Smith at least once every time we play Baltimore. The funny thing is, Ike ASKS to cover these guys, then goes and get embarrassed each time.

  • Josh Knepshield

    Oh man, you’ve covered the Steelers and the NFL for 6 years? I’m sorry. Now I know I should listen to you over PFF. All hail Wil Masisak. He can judge performance better than a bunch of football junkies who sit in a room, and have to watch Ike’s terrible play.

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