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The Optimist’s Take – Moving On From Ike Taylor


By Matthew Marczi

For a team facing so much adversity in the past season and heading into the next with a litany of questions to address, it’s natural to consider the issues and how they can either go right or wrong, as well as how they will affect  the broader dynamics and future success of the team, both heading into this season and into the future.

Though not statistically true, it is technically true that every team enters the offseason with the potential to finish the year as the league champion or as the first team on the clock in the next draft.

Some teams have a wider realistic range than others, and I think the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of those teams. Think of them as Schrödinger’s franchise; in February, they are both future champions and future owners of the top draft pick.

In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the optimistic side of the coin.

Question: Could the secondary hold up in 2014 if they were asked to withstand the loss of Ike Taylor?

Ike Taylor, who formally could have been in the discussion of ‘shutdown’ cornerbacks, certainly didn’t play with shutdown-quality coverage during the 2013 season, during which he gave up more yardage than any cornerback in the league. I’ve looked at the grizzly details of his 2013 season before in other articles, so it’s not necessary to revisit all of them again, but suffice it to say that they raise some cause for concern.

Taylor, who will be 34 in May, missed most of the second half of the 2012 season with a lower leg injury, and he never really looked to be at his best at any point this past year. He was notably slower, with more receivers able to get past him, regardless of whether or not he made the reception.

The Detroit Lions game comes to mind, when Matthew Stafford’s early inaccuracy bailed out the secondary a number of times down the field before he started connecting in an explosive second quarter.

Taylor enters the 2014 on the last year of a four-year contract, during which he has a base salary of $7 million and a cap hit of nearly $12. The Steelers could save the worth of that base salary by releasing him, which would go a long way to achieving the organization’s other offseason goals, such as re-signing Jason Worilds.

They already have two cornerbacks that they trust with starting experience in William Gay and Cortez Allen, so those would be your starting cornerbacks, barring a modest free agent signing, should the Steelers release Taylor. With the savings, they could also keep the rest of the starting secondary intact by re-signing Clark.

This might also be beneficial for Shamarko Thomas as well, who may not be quite ready to overtake a starting safety spot, but could certainly profit from inheriting the nickel back role for a season, which he already played some as a rookie.

The Steelers will certainly be looking to draft a cornerback, and probably high, as early as the first round, when the draft rolls around, and it’s not unheard of for rookie cornerbacks to contribute on this defense in their rookie seasons. Both Allen and, as previously mentioned, Thomas played a decent amount in their first seasons, so that could provide some insulation in case of injuries.

Considering the Steelers allowed almost 40 more yards through the air, more than half a yard per pass attempt, and 15 more explosive passing plays than the year before, and that Taylor was responsible for massive portions of that, maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to move in another direction. How much worse could it get?

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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

    That’s ultimately what it comes down to.. how much worse could it get… truly… he was basically the worst in the League last year. I’ve always been a Taylor supporter but at this point, starting C.Allen and WillieG this season with Thomas/Blake/Green playing nickel while the new soon to be rookie draft pick(s) get acclimated cant be any worse than what we just witnessed

  • dennisdoubleday

    I don’t buy that at all, “worst in the league”, no way. I remember 2 pretty bad games, against Josh Gordon and Calvin Johnson, who by the way terrorized most of the league. And Johnson just had a huge first half, he was shut down in the 2nd half.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Where does the stat “gave up most yards in the league” come from? Just wondering. It would seem hard to quantify because yards given up by a particular corner is a pretty vague concept. Even when there is man-to-man coverage, responsibility is often hard to assign, in that a corner may give up a deep ball but it was because he was assigned to play tight with expected safety help over the top.

  • steeltown

    He allowed more yds than any CB in the League (over 1,000yds) he had double digit missed tackles and I think he gave up 6TDs or was responsible them…. he was at the bottom of the League this year statistically, no doubt

  • dennisdoubleday

    How many CBs around the league are assigned to shadow the opponent’s #1 receiver all over the field?

    It’s not really comparable.

  • Nolrog

    I think the secondary takes too much of the blame. The line and the backers get very little pressure on the opposing QB, so they have a lot of time to throw the ball. Even the best corners can’t cover someone forever. In addition to that, Ike takes the blame a lot of times for safety mistakes. For example, there are plays where the corner takes outside technique and pushes the WR into the middle of the field, but there is supposed to be over the top help from the safety, and when that doesn’t happen, Ike takes the blame.

    I think there’s still life in Ike, and he should have a place on the team next year, but they should also be looking forward to his replacement in this year’s draft.

  • cencalsteeler

    I think times like this is when the Steelers family bites us in the a$$. We have all grown to love Ike and are appreciative of his years of service with the black and gold. We know he has a bond with the Rooney family. But football is football and stats don’t lie. Sure, the easy answer for most of us is to say “let’s sign him one more year for the vet minimum so he can help out the young guys!” It’s time to move on. I think the question should be rephrased- “Could the secondary hold up in 2014 if Ike is retained for another season?”

  • cencalsteeler

    He was shut down due to the weather and the play by Stafford, not Ike’s coverage skills. I think your giving Ike too much credit, IMO

  • dennisdoubleday

    So, when receivers are shut down it is none of Ike’s doing, but when they aren’t it is all him? Good to know.

  • 20Stoney

    You read my mind about the pressure, or lack thereof. It sure can cover a multitude of weaknesses in the secondary. Here’s hoping JJ get’s a lot better quickly.

  • Steve

    Clark was a poor tackler and needs to go also.

  • cencalsteeler

    No, I’m saying your giving Ike credit for “shutting down” Johnson in the second half, while he spent most of the time on the sidelines injured.

  • Steve

    Its not just Ike, Clark need to go also, he would just stand there and watch others make the tackle. Think he was afraid to tackle last year.

  • dennisdoubleday

    Now you’re just making sh*t up. Taylor played all 73 Steeler defensive snaps in that game.

  • cencalsteeler

    I am referring to Calvin Johnson.

  • Chad H

    I like Ike but it is time to move on and save some cash. He is getting old and slow. Let’s get Worilds resigned and get a corner in the draft that can play nickel. Also look at a CB/S type of player in the draft. We need to clear some cap room.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    The thing that hurts Ike the most is that he can’t catch the ball. Because there is no threat of him intercepting the ball, teams have no fear of throwing at him. The worst that can happen is an incompletion. I hope they can get him back for something close to the vet minimum, because he can play in their scheme and unfortunately, I think he is at least as good, if not better, than what they have.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Steeltown took the words right out of my mouth — Last line says it all, “How much worse could it possibly get?” Let me add this for all you guys discussing his merits and how much fault he should assume for his performance last year. I don’t give a damn. This is the way you should look at it, just taking risk and reward into consideration:

    1) You keep him, he plays well, but you are unable to sign or keep 3 other younger guys that might have helped you now and later. This still sucks as I would easily take another down year with young guys getting much needed experience. And he might end up playing crappy. Who knows.

    versus 2) You let him go, and can afford to draft, plus pick up a FA at a much lower cost, and have money to retain other necessary pieces such as Cotchery or others. The young guys get more experience.

    Please note that this past year I was stating this very case early in the year. Play the young guys and if you end up winning, it’s a big bonus. I realize that some of it was because of injuries, but they did go 6-2.

    The risk/reward dictates that the organization should move on from Ike.

  • Callentown

    Each and every #1 CB does this.

  • Callentown

    Triple d.. No one is trying to fight here. Ike started off well, but it’s documented that he fell off a cliff in the second half of the year. It happens.

    Still could help the team but no longer as a pure #1 CB.

  • Matt Manzo

    I don’t know. We all said the same things about Gay awhile back.
    If Ike takes a pay cut it’s worth seeing what he can contribute, as long as he’s not preventing a young guy from playing. Seems to be a safety net with him taking a back up roll? I’d hate to see the coaching staff keeping Ike out there if he sucks.
    I think he’d be ok with a Cotchery type influence to the defensive backs.

  • steeltown

    Normally yes, he does shadow the #1 but he actually was not asked to do that in the 2nd half of this past season.. they made him stay on his dominant side because he was struggling so much

  • dennisdoubleday

    That is not a true statement.

  • cencalsteeler

    I stand corrected if he (Calvin) played all 73 snaps, my memory apparently must be on the decline.

  • AndyR34

    I would also ask this question…we all know that Ike “can’t catch” the ball. But he can tip it…so why are there never any safeties around to catch the tip?? Never!

  • Matthew Marczi

    Unfortunately I would be surprised if he plays for anything less than a $4 million base salary this year. I don’t even think the front office, or the Rooneys, would dare ask him to take a bigger pay cut.

  • Jollyrob68

    Dont re-sign Clark and Ike takes a massive paycut or gets cut.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    You’re right about what is likely to happen if they ask him to take a pay cut. It will probably be for something around $4M.

    If he was cut, I doubt he could get $2M on the open market. I’d like for them to cut him and then compete to get him back at a basement rate.

  • Richard Edlin

    Yes – Richard Sherman is at least in the discussion for the best CBs in the league, and he’s strictly one-sided.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Agreed. Just look at the contracts–or lack of contracts–that highly paid players the Steelers have cut got elsewhere. Harrison, Colon, Kemoeatu, Farrior, Ward, etc.

  • CrazyTerry

    I said it before and I will say it again. If Colbert pays Ike 4M a year, he needs to be fired immediately. I can’t believe how reckless Colbert has been in doling out money to his own players. It seems lke this front office is generous to everyone on the roster except for Harrison. No wonder Harrison wsa too stubborn for his own good. He probably felt singled out for a massive paycut.

  • WIINGY

    Taylor never has, and never will be a shutdown corner.

  • WIINGY

    There has never been an Ike island. He gets help. He’s always been overrated. I’m not sure he’s ever even turned his head around to make a play on the ball.

    and he’s been taking the Steelers to the bank.

  • CrazyTerry

    Ike’s kissing up to the Rooneys might get him some slack. I sure hope Colbert is not a total moron in paying him 4M. Colbert has devolved into someone more fit to the run the Lions. Maybe he should return to the Lions organization as his 7 year magic has worn off.

  • WIINGY

    quit being a homer.

    Ike is done. Move on.

  • WIINGY

    Ike is Rooney’s best friend.

  • CrazyTerry

    Hell, I personally think Ike and Clark should go. Ike is free to come back for a lowball salary just to provide depth. Troy does not deserve 10M next year, but Colbert is too gutless to ask Troy to take a paycut. Troy wouldn’t get more than 6 or 7 M in the open market.

    This is one of the most overpaid defenses in the entire league

  • CrazyTerry

    You saw Polamalu’s play in NE. I think you couldn’t blame him enough for how horrible he was in coverage. Troy was the worst player on both defenses in SB 45. He has become mediocre in pass coverage.

  • Milliken Steeler

    You need to stick to discussing something you know about, like maybe honey boo boo episodes; because you obviously dont know what Ike was. In his prime he was set out to cover number one receivers and did it many times.

    He can’t anymore however, you saying he always had help shows me you don;t know squat.

  • Iron Cadet

    Cut him loose, and draft a cb high. Either dennard or gilbert will be there. I would be comfortable with dennard because he could come in as a rookie and do well in man to man. I think gilbert has the higher upside but is not as much of a shut down corner right now

  • WIINGY

    He never blanketed anyone. In his prime he played #1 receivers but was never a shutdown corner. He had plenty of help.

    You guys act like he was as good as Rod Woodson.
    He never made the pro bowl.

    You’re a homer.

  • Milliken Steeler

    I might be a homer but you;re obviously a no knowledge troll. He was on number ones by himself…thus shut down corner,

    Ill give you stats against top receivers until this last year and embarrass you if you would like.

    Homer? Get real, its common sense. smh Move along skippy, nothing to see here.

  • WIINGY

    Stats don’t mean anything. We saw what Ike Taylor was made of when put on an island. Tim Tebow burned him over and over.

    He was a good corner in the Steelers system, but was never anything close to a shutdown corner.

    Homer

  • WIINGY

    I would take Gilbert. He’s a playmaker and can return as well.
    I’d rather get a Free Agent corner and draft Pryor.

    They can get a guy to develop later like Desir or Baptiste.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Again. with the last few years. makes sense as you said ” he was never a shut down corner and never will be”” umm at his age you think the never will be is moot?
    Anyone who watched him play saw him shut down AJ Green and other top WR’s

    You make no sense.

    DOLT

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Different story. Gay got burned left, right and centre when he was here originally. I cringed every time they threw his way. I was shocked they brought him back. But I admit I am now ecstatic that they did because he has been quite solid for a guy with his talent. I was wrong, they were right.

    Ike is different because with his exorbitant salary, he takes the place of several other salaries. The Steelers don;t have that sort of luxury. Just go down the list of FA’s, and try to figure out who you would keep. I have them keeping less than half and they will still be in trouble with the cap by the time they sign Worlds, a few others and the rookies.

    Remember, it would be wise to sign Heyword, and perhaps Allen before they potentially have a monster year and you can’t afford them. That’s why I’m thinking ahead and don;t mind taking a little pain in order to build a championship team.

  • Aric Brown

    Ya…but… developing corners is not our strong point

  • Callentown

    Then back it up. Man it’s such a bummer when someone comes on this board and just fights and whines.

    Why don’t you go fight with some Raven fans instead of the people who are all on the same side!

  • Matt Manzo

    I’d just like to have him tutor our new cbs. Only with a big pay cut though.

  • gene mann

    Clark does need to move on and hopefully Ike takes a big pay cut.

  • ND_Steel

    He’s been the #1 CB on three SB teams and anchored how many top ranked defenses. Unfortunately, his stone hands are legendary…but if he had just 2 more INTs per year, he would have been pro-bowl material and a borderline HOFer. Give the guy some credit. I wish all 4th rd picks turned out so good.

  • sean mcmartin

    Steeltown is spot on.Also the 3-4 defense did not generate much of a pass rush and that did not do Ike any favors.

  • WIINGY

    HOF! HAHAHAHA

    Delusional.

  • WIINGY

    Yeah they have hit on a couple. Allen and Lewis. But I agree, which is why they need to bring in a FA

  • Aric Brown

    i dunno if i’d say Allen was a hit yet….. He reminds me a bit of Bryant Mcfadden… the jury is still out though… for comparison if Keenan Lewis was a home run… Cortez Allen is a single that might be able to be stretched into an extra base hit

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