A year after suffering the first significant injury of his career, and forcing him to miss much of the season, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor started every game last season, and only came off the field for a snap or two due to some minor injury or another.
That’s what he would have had you believe last year, but as he admitted earlier this offseason, he was playing through some pain.
He was playing with some injuries last year. True professional players do that and they don’t use it for a crutch. You didn’t hear that from Mike (Tomlin), but I could see it. Again, from the middle of the season on, if you look at him it’s really close to playing like Ike can play. He looks good at training camp. I think the anomaly part is that he was injured. But we needed him in there. I’m not saying that. But it’s going to affect his play a little bit.
The veteran cornerback didn’t spend much time on the injury report last year—he rarely does. He sustained a concussion that had him listed as questionable for one week, but even though he suffered some bumps and bruises during games that made him come off the field for a snap or two, he didn’t take time off during practices and was only on the injury report for the week following his concussion.
Taylor missed a total of 24 snaps during the 2013 season, spread out over eight different games. He never missed more than five snaps in any individual game, but you can figure that many of those isolated incidents were the result of some minor nick or another that he suffered on the field and needed to come off for a play.
It seems as though one or more of these little nicks were more significant than it appeared, and that Taylor simply played through them.
Of course, it’s natural to want to automatically associate the idea of him playing hurt with some of the poor performances that he had last year, particularly when it came to his unusually unreliable tackling, missing double-digit tackles.
The decline in his play last year caused the Steelers to slightly change the way that they used him on defense toward the end of the season, moving him around less often and providing him more insurance over the top against receivers.
It yielded positive results then, and Taylor appears to be healthy now, so it seems reasonable to assume that he could be expected to have a better season in 2014 than he did last year, even if he appears to have lost a step or two in recent years.
But a clean bill of health is certainly no guarantee of improved performance. Taylor did say that he did more weight training during this offseason, believing that that is something that he was slacking on in recent years. Perhaps health and an even more strenuous workout regimen will deliver a stronger final farewell for the 12th-year pro—maybe even buy him another year or two.