The Pessimist’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 pessimistic 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 has been the Steelers’ best cornerback for the better part of a decade, with a few blips here and there. One of those blips came just last season, during which he had some bright spots, but ultimately ended up giving up over 1000 yards in coverage, surrendering six touchdowns without making up for any of it with a single turnover.

Taylor hasn’t really looked the same since injuring his leg in the middle of the 2012 season, which ended his year. He often looked at least a step slower this year and missed a number of tackles he was once accustomed to making.

Given his struggling performance, and the team’s significant cap concerns, the issue of Taylor’s contract has become paramount this offseason. While most expect that the team will approach the veteran about accepting a pay cut of approximately $3 million, that’s certainly by no means a guarantee.

As we saw last offseason, athletes are not always so accommodating when it comes to pitting their own interests against the team’s interests. James Harrison was approached about taking a pay cut, but he balked at the suggestion and left the organization with no alternative but to release him.

The front office may find themselves in the same position with Taylor this offseason. They certainly don’t want him playing under a $7 million base salary, and as much admiration as he may have for the ownership, people don’t like having money taken away. After all, Harrison liked it here, too. How else can you explain him being nearly brought to tears when asked about playing under Dick LeBeau?

So it’s certainly a very real possibility that the Steelers can find themselves without their top cornerback any more, even if he’s no longer the top cornerback that he once was. And given the depth at the position, this certainly isn’t a good thing.

For one thing, William Gay was not brought back here to be a starter, and while he performed quite admirably, including a pick six, he shouldn’t be counted upon to offer an encore performance. What’s more, Cortez Allen is susceptible to getting beat for the big play, and the Steelers were forced to take him out of the starting lineup because of his struggles.

More importantly, neither of them have ever been a top cornerback. Even when Taylor missed time in 2012, Keenan Lewis was the top cornerback. You don’t want to go into a season with two number two cornerbacks if you can avoid it. That’s what leads to historically bad passing defenses.

Curtis Brown has been nothing but a liability whenever he’s taken the field on defense. Isaiah Green and Antwon Blake are short, nondescript corners who can’t be counted upon for anything.

Bringing in a free agent? You’re not going to get a top corner for what the Steelers can afford, and even signing a moderate talent at the position would impinge upon what the team can do elsewhere—such as re-signing Jason Worilds or extending young players like Cameron Heyward or Allen.

Somewhat ironically, Taylor holds the cards here. The Steelers need him to play, but they also need him to be willing to take a pay cut. And he doesn’t have to oblige. From just about every standpoint, it doesn’t look like the team is equipped to do without Taylor this season.

The Optimist’s Take – Moving On From Ike Taylor

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • 20Stoney

    I really expect Cortez Allen to be fine, but we have serious depth problems with or without Ike.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    Ike Taylor and defending the pass, should never be used in the same sentence.

  • steeltown

    We technically have three #2 corners.. because of the decline of Taylor. I expect improvement from C.Allen but that said, I would be happy with a Justin Gilbert or Dennard selection or even Clinton Dix.. Funny, a couple weeks ago I was not to enthused about the TOP DBs in this draft, but man we could sure use one of those prospects

  • CrazyTerry

    Are we that starved for articles we need an optimist and a pessimist version for each playear

  • blackandgoldBullion

    They are not prepared to do without Ike is the last statement there. And how did they get in this predicament? By not planning ahead. There is no time like the present to get the cap way down and get on with it. Then you have the opportunity to make positive changes by re signing some young guys and perhaps dipping a toe into FA, I agree with their philosophy of passing on the big name FA’s as some silly team will always overpay. However, there is nothing wrong with the second tier guys, as they can sometimes be good value.

  • dgh57

    Only two CBs drafted since 2008 are still on this team and one of them is hanging on by only a thread and that is C. Brown. The UDFAs haven’t proven themselves either so it’s not hard to see that poor drafting is why Taylor may hold all the cards. It’s time to increase the odds of success by drafting where the biggest need is and that is one of the top CBs in this years draft in either Gilbert or Dennard!

  • cencalsteeler

    Ike Taylors salary for 14 would be 7 million? Wow! Looking at some of the free agents out there to compare:
    Charles Tillman 6 mill
    Brent Grimes 5.5 mill
    Cromartie 5 mill
    Talib 5 mill
    Josh Wilson 4.5 mill
    Corey Webster 4 mill
    Tarrell Brown 3 mill
    Vontae Davis 2.2 mill
    Sam Shields 2 mill
    Mike Jenkins 1.5 mill
    E.J. Biggers 1.5 mill
    Tracy Porter 1.5 mill

  • Jollyrob68

    Ask him for a paycut if he balks cut him and move on. Draft,sign fa and rebuild the back end of your Defense. others in the division have rebuilt their secondary and have done well. Time to move on.

  • Jollyrob68

    Some quality Fa that can be had at Steeler prices plus a couple of draft picks. Cb,Safety and a hybrid like Florida States coverage lb/s Smith. I feel a trade down coming unless Watkins is on the board.

  • 20Stoney

    I kind of like it!

  • JT

    Or imagine double dipping on Gilbert then a guy like Roberson, Baptise, or Fuller in the second. Then forget about DBs for a decade while masking any shortcomings of the pass rush.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    They should cut him and try to re-sign him at a very low rate. There are a lot of corners his age hitting the market this month. Dunta Robinson, Asante Samuel, Carlos Rodgers (likely) just to name a few. Once you hit 30 in the NFL, the big money is over unless you are a QB or are an extreme exception to the rule. I’d like to see them get him back under $2M.

  • steeltown

    Gilbert/Dennard in the 1st and Deone Bucannon in the 2nd

    …a guy can dream

  • Aric Brown

    I think they did plan ahead it just didnt work out.. Curtis Brown didn’t turn into who they thought he could be.. Cortez is just shy of being who they want him to be… Keenan Lewis left… and Terry Hawthorne was a complete bust

  • steeltown

    Yea if C.Brown, Terrance Frederick or Terry Hawthorne had worked out, just one of them, depth concerns would be a little less drastic

  • Aric Brown

    I think they go with the CB in rd 1 and then a WR like Jordan Matthews in the 2nd… then back for another corner in Desir with (hopefully) our first comp pick in the 3rd


    Ike’s cap hit is over $11 mil…it should be more like $3mil. at this stage of his production. I think we’ll see the Steelers ask for a cut in what they think is fair market much like they did with JH (he played in CIN for less than what the Steelers offered).

    5.5 to 6 mil combined cap hit for Troy and Ike is about all I can see working.

  • Aric Brown

    Watkins could show up at the combine and run the 40 backwards… and he still won’t be there at 15


    Allen is just lacking snaps…imo he’s already one of the top CBs in the AFC.

    I wouldn’t take Dennard or Gilbert @ 15…not that I don’t think they can play, but I don’t see that much separation from guys like Purifoy, Fuller, or Roberson that I think will be on the board in the second round. Duke has a kid we should be honing in on 4th-5th round.

  • Aric Brown

    I was really disappointed with Hawthorne… The kid could have came out the year before and been one of the top corners off the board…. but he stayed, his stock fell, and i thought we found ourselves a gem

  • steeltown

    Yea, good size, good speed, and had receiving ability which would’ve gone a long way in accumulating INTs and he could’ve also contributed as KR… an enigma


    Much more quiet than Spence but I think he blew his leg/knee out really bad.

  • AndyR34

    “Talent” is not always what it appears to be. He was a fifth round pick…unlikely to be more than a sometime contributor

  • CrazyTerry

    The only leverage Ike has is what other teams are willing to pay him .Colbert would be an absolute moron to pay him without seeing what his market value is.

  • steeltown

    Rd 5 is historically a terrible Rd for the Steelers, in the last decade I can only think of one guy that became a contributor -William Gay

  • Callentown

    Good point. Keep in mind, those salaries are before this next signing. Tillman will get more, don’t you think?

  • RedCarpetDefense

    The writers here could have an article detailing the merits of feminine hygiene products and it’ll get read and commented/disputed over.
    I find their collective articles in the off season mainly to be of more interest, lots more to delve into than just games. I find myself eagerly anticipating each day’s new article or news like when I was a kid waking up early Saturday mornings for a day full of cartoons. Thanks Dave, Matthew, Alex and anyone else I’ve omitted for reconnecting me to my youthful memories. I’ve learned so much.

  • sean mcmartin

    Colbert said the Steelers understand Ben R. is not getting any younger. And the Steelers do not like to play rookies in the rosetta stone defense. So who they draft probably won’t even affect them this season.
    The cap situation sounds like there is no room for a quality FA starter.
    . Ike T. can take a paycut, but less money won’t help him get better or faster.
    I don’t see how they will improve the secondary with all this stacked against them.
    They still need a pass rush on the front line.
    and then add the Tomlin talent evaluation fiasco. I hope I am wrong and somehow things work out better than what I expect.

  • dgh57

    If they’re smart they’ll wait until post draft to make a decision on Taylor. That way if we draft Gilbert the ball is back in our court and less leverage for Taylor. Problem is I don’t know if Gilbert will be there at 15 or not.

  • AndyR34

    Gay most recently…Rian Wallace @LB briefly…then you need to go back to Vernon Haynes (briefly), Chukky Okobi, and Clark Haggans (2002-2000).

  • Douglas Andrews

    Wonder what was the real reason Hawthorne didn’t work out? Carnell Lake was really interested in working with him. I just found that surprising that he didn’t even make it to the practice squad.

  • Matthew Marczi

    It’s not about the players, it’s about the questions that don’t have clear answers and can could go either way. Those questions are often about a specific player, yes. It’s worthwhile to understand both sides of these questions. After all, that’s how the team makes their decisions, based on projected outcomes. I respect the fact that you might find this series superfluous, but nobody’s making you click on these articles, let alone read them. Now, if you have something to say about the content of the article itself, feel free to weigh in.

  • CrazyTerry

    But it clutters your page. I see 3 articles on Ike. It would be easier on the browsing if you just clubbed both in one article. At least, to me. So it’s not just about the choice not to click on an article.
    And I thnk I put enough comments on Ike that putting another one would merely keep piling on. I think people have already seen my rants on Colbert’s cap mismanagement and his reluctance to be ruthless to any Steeler not named Harrison.

  • alex

    it shows how one bad draft can kill you, especially when your expected to contend every year…

    some pass bad gas about how bad Colbert and the FO are at the draft, but please, its a crap shoot…

    how many first round bust QBs can you count on one hand?…you cant, you gotta take of your shoes…

    and then we kill it in the later rounds with players like AB, Beachum, maybe V Williams, and even Mundy, Gay, and Kemoe in the past…