Harris: Life without Ike no fun for Steelers
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Well, it finally happened.
The most scrutinized and criticized Steelers player this side of Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox saw his consecutive game streak end at 135 games.
San Diego 34, Steelers 24.
So this is what life is like without cornerback Ike Taylor.
Inexperienced Steelers corners getting snookered by double moves. Journeyman receivers running free in the secondary. San Diego and Baltimore combining for four touchdown passes in Taylor's absence after the Steelers had yielded four touchdown passes in their previous seven games with Taylor in the lineup.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin knew what was coming a week ago when he said in response to Taylor's injury: “We're in unique territory.”
All along, Steelers fans were led to believe the defense's success was contingent on safety Troy Polamalu. But the Steelers are ranked No. 1 in total and pass defense this season despite Polamalu's missing nine games because of injury.
How is that possible?
This year, safety Ryan Clark might be the most valuable member of the defense. Polamalu and Clark started against San Diego. The problem is they can't play cornerback and defend the other team's No. 1 receiver the way Taylor can.
Unfortunately, neither can corners Keenan Lewis, Curtis Brown, Cortez Allen and Josh Victorian.
“True No. 1 corners, guys who shadow the opposing team's top receiver every week and don't always need safety help, are rare and unspeakably valuable in the NFL. The Steelers have one in Ike Taylor,” said Andy Benoit, who writes for the New York Times and has regular access to Steelers game tape.
“Double moves are how teams like to test young corners,” Benoit said of a successful strategy utilized by San Diego and Baltimore against the Steelers. “All corners face this test; Ike has rare recovery ability against double moves.”
Full disclosure: I'm the host of “The Ike Taylor Show” on TribLive Radio, but this is a story that's been underplayed.
Since becoming a starter in 2005, Taylor has been matched 65 times against Pro Bowl receivers Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker, Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, A.J. Green, Steve Smith, DeSean Jackson, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison and Javon Walker. That includes a game last season in which Green caught a 36-yard touchdown pass on a play that didn't involve Taylor.
The totals: 146 receptions for 2,027 yards and 11 touchdowns, which averages out to 2.2 catches and 31.2 yards per game.
Meanwhile, San Diego's no-name trio of Danario Alexander, Michael Spurlock and Malcom Floyd combined for 17 receptions, 162 yards and three touchdowns against the Steelers.
“When you remove that sort of asset from the lineup, you don't only become less talented as a secondary, you potentially become less diverse and less complex,” said Benoit, who has appeared as a guest on Taylor's radio show. “Without Taylor, the Steelers are less inclined to dictate matchups and more inclined to simply react to what the offense is doing. That ultimately puts a greater strain on all 11 (defensive) players.”
The young cornerbacks could catch a break Sunday. Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant sprained his finger in Sunday's win over the Bengals and could miss the rest of the season. Still, Miles Austin and the rest of the Cowboys' receivers must be salivating at the thought of facing a Taylor-less secondary.
“It's consistency when it comes to my position because you're out there on your own,” Taylor said. “It's going to be days like that. Your mentality's got to be strong. The more I tell them, they can hear it, and they can understand it. But they really ain't going to understand it until they go through it.
“It takes a while. It took me four or five years. It's understanding everybody and where you (need) to be.”
Understand this: The Steelers need Taylor back on the field.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers laud decision, praise Brady for taking on Goodell
- With most starters resting, Steelers turn in lackluster loss at Heinz
- Freeport Area to explore options for storing maintenance equipment
- Liriano struggles as Brewers complete sweep of Pirates
- The Clarks go back to their roots with new album ‘Rewind’
- Steelers notebook: Thomas, Moats only starting defensive players to see action vs. Panthers
- Young guns lead way into pivotal Pirates-Cardinals series
- Experts warn Kane’s Haiti trip might jeopardize any case from 2014 wiretap
- Roundup: Kraft Singles recall grows nearly tenfold; judge OKs $415M settlement in Apple, Google wage case; more
- Brackenridge approves sewer line repair, curb installations
- Vick supporters, opponents demonstrate before Steelers’ game, but coexist