Tag:Ike Taylor
Posted on: June 28, 2011 7:28 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 7:38 pm
 

Ike Taylor to the Cardinals would be a long shot

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Here's a headline that should surprise absolutely no one: "Arizona Cardinals could be interested in Ike Taylor."

A lot has to happen for the Cardinals to land the soon-to-be free agent cornerback who spent the first eight years of his career with the Steelers, but since Ken Whisenhunt became coach in 2007, the Pittsburgh-to-Arizona player pipeline has flowed freely.

Before getting the head coaching gig with the Cards, Whisenhunt was the Steelers offensive coordinator. In the four years since he arrived in Arizona, the Cardinals have signed Joey Porter, Sean Morey, Alan Faneca, Jerame Tuman, Bryant McFadden, Brian St. Pierre, and Dan Kreider -- all former Steelers. And there's Whisenhunt's staff: Russ Grimm (an assistant under Bill Cowher) is the Cardinals assistant head coach, Ray Horton (an assistant under Mike Tomlin) is the new defensive coordinator, and Deshea Townsend (a Steelers cornerback from 1998-2009) is the new defensive backs coach. (We won't even mention the Steelers-Cards ball boy connection.)

Ike Taylor's immediate future is contingent on many things, chief among them: the owners and players settling on a new collective bargaining agreement. Beyond that, it will come down to demand and, of course, money. At various stages of the offseason Taylor has hinted that he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh but that he wasn't interested in giving any hometown discounts to do so.

We suppose there's a chance Taylor lands in Arizona (affectionately known as Pittsburgh West), but a lot will have to happen before it gets to that point. Sports 620 KTAR radio's Ron Wolfley (who also calls Cardinals' games, and whose brother, Craig, is a sideline reporter for the Steelers radio network) breaks out the hypotheticals:

"Let's say they deal [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and bring in Kevin Kolb as their quarterback," Wolfley said, according to ArizonaSports.com. "Does Ike Taylor make sense at the corner opposite of Patrick Peterson? I can tell you it makes perfect sense for so many different reasons. Number one, we're talking about a grizzled veteran. A guy who is a true players pro. He's a professional. A guy that would mentor a young Patrick Peterson. A guy that has been in the league nine years and he's been durable as well. He's missed three games in nine years.

"This is a guy who would be a perfect fit because he already knows Ray Horton's defense. He'd have to be brought up to speed on the terminology but playing corner is not exactly the same as playing quarterback in the National Football League if you get my drift. Ike Taylor could do it. You could bring him in. He'd be the perfect guy in this system."

But Taylor wouldn't come cheap (not to mention DRC for Kolb isn't likely). He'll be one of the most sought-after cornerbacks in free agency after Nnamdi Asomugha. And then there's this: recent history suggests that 31-year-old cornerbacks, even those coming off solid seasons, usually see their productivity drop off a cliff in subsequent seasons.

That's not a guarantee that a similar fate awaits Taylor. (Champ Bailey and Charles Woodson have defied the odds. Of course, Taylor was at no point in his career as good as either Bailey or Woodson, so that's worth keeping in mind, too.) But it's a lot of money to spend on a cornerback with his best days likely behind him. Even if he's expected to mentor rookie Patrick Peterson.

By the way, by most accounts, Peterson is a high-character guy who doesn't seem to need much in the way of mentoring. (And if he does, Townsend would be perfectly suited for that role.) Using that logic, Taylor would make perfect sense in Baltimore. But we're pretty sure that ain't happening.

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Posted on: June 16, 2011 4:30 pm
Edited on: June 16, 2011 5:49 pm
 

Hot Routes 6.16.11: Taylor, Asomugha not close



Posted by Ryan Wilson
  • Come again? We think it goes without saying that Nnamdi Asomugha is a better corner than, say, the Steelers' Ike Taylor -- but apparently not. Using facts and common sense, Shutdown Corner's Doug Farrar takes the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's John Harris to task for suggesting that Taylor is better than Asomugha. 
  • Still wanted: QB. Pat White may not have been the answer (and Pryor almost certainly isn't), but according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Dolphins' first order of business once the lockout ends will be finding a veteran QB to compete with Chad Henne
  • We need Matlock. If there's something we can all get behind it's that the lawyers shouldn't be allowed in the room during CBA negotiations. PFT's Mike Florio offers up yet another reason to lock out the lawyers: money (shocking, right?). 
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Posted on: May 15, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Ike Taylor to test the free agent market

Posted by Andy Benoit
I. Taylor
Nnamdi Asomugha is the headline-grabbing cornerback available on this year’s free agent market. But the next guy in line, Ike Taylor, has been nearly just as valuable to his team over the years. And he knows it.

There have been rumblings that the 31-year-old Taylor will return to the Steel City. “I’ve been in Pittsburgh longer than any other city since I was born,” Taylor recently told Scott Brown of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “That’s home to me. Steelers Nation is crazy. You’re going to find a Steelers fan at some bar, some mall, some college (anywhere). As a professional player you thrive off that.”

But not so fast. Pro Football Talk reports that Taylor fully intends to test the market when free agency begins.

The Steelers should do all they can to prevent this. Taylor is one of the best all-around corners in the NFL. His ability to play press or man coverage is a large reason why Troy Polamalu can freelance. What’s more, the sinewy 6’2”, 195-pounder is one of the best tackling corners in the game, which is key in Pittsburgh’s system.

The Steelers’ cornerback corps is fairly thin even with Taylor. Without Taylor, it’d be downright malnourished.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 23, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 2:45 pm
 

Hot Routes 2.23.11: Woodson to safety for Nnamdi?

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • The NFL has agreed to unseal some documents in the media fees case after the NFLPA requested it. They didn't unseal all of the documents requested by the NFLPA, however. That's cool, though, because, you know, negotiations are about compromise. AHEM.
  • The Packers are raising ticket prices by $2-$4 per game next year, though it's not supposed to mess with their sellout streak. They are the defending world champs after all.
  • The Steelers might consider using their transition tag on Ike Taylor, who would probably fetch a pretty penny on the open market. And who's departure would be not good for a Steelers' secondary that struggled a lot last year.
  • Not NFL-related, but I wish that someone would make more sandwiches for football players. I love sports-related sandwiches. This Carmelo Anthony one just makes no sense, unless it's symbolizing the level of annoyance with 'Melo by the time he was finally traded.
Posted on: February 14, 2011 3:46 pm
 

Ike Taylor could test free agent waters

I. Taylor likely will test the free agent waters (Getty).

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Len Pasquarelli of the Sports Xchange (and sometimes of CBSSports.com) has an interesting report on what will happen with Steelers No. 1 CB Ike Taylor now that he’ll be an unrestricted free agent no matter the resolution of the CBA.

According to Pasquarelli, Taylor and the Steelers have had zero negotiations (in part, I imagine, because of that whole “going to the Super Bowl” thing), and Taylor seems pretty intent on checking out what he could fetch on the open market.

"I've been (in Pittsburgh) my whole career, and I'd like to finish with the Steelers," Taylor told Pasquarelli. "It's my home, and I really don't know anything else. But (stuff) happens, so we'll see."

Taylor, as we all know, doesn’t make many interceptions – in part it’s because his hands aren’t exactly wonderful – but he’s turned himself into one of the better cover corners in the AFC.

Taylor signed a five-year, $22.5 million extension in 2006, but he wants more money on his next contract, and considering the Steelers likely will franchise-tag LB LaMarr Woodley, Taylor might fall through the cracks.

The loss of Taylor would be big for Pittsburgh, because the Steelers don’t really have anyone who can step in and immediately fill his spot (competently, I mean). But the reason Taylor will want to taste the free agent market is because he (obviously) stands to make a great deal of money.

And since he’s not the elitest of the elite CBs – and free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha, Champ Bailey and Antonio Cromartie also will be available – he could get paid handsomely by teams who need solid corners and are willing to spend money but can’t afford to pay a guy like Asomughi what he wants.

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Posted on: February 6, 2011 10:51 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2011 11:30 pm
 

Five keys from Super Bowl XLV

Posted by Andy Benoit

1. Rodgers making the most of his time

We speculated before the game that Dick LeBeau would elect to drop back and play coverage against Aaron Rodgers. After all, when the Steelers blitzed Rodgers in the 2009 regular season matchup, they got tA. Rodgers (US Presswire)orched for 36 points.

Well, that speculation was prescient. Just as he did in the Super Bowl two years ago, LeBeau often kept safety Troy Polamalu in deep coverage. LeBeau’s bet was that outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley could abuse Green Bay’s edge pass-blockers. But with the exception of one James Harrison sack, that was not the case. Give a world of credit to Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga.

Polamalu played closer to the line of scrimmage in the second (including as a slot corner), but that did not disrupt Rodgers’ rhythm. As has been the case all postseason, Rodgers was terrific in his presnap diagnostics. And with solid protection, he was able to buy time in the pocket and work through his progressions. His poise allowed him to finish 24 of 39 (with six drops, no less) for 304 yards and three touchdowns.

2. Effective running

The Packers did not make the run a staple of their offensive gameplan (again, no surprise – they were facing the third best run defense in NFL history), but they made the absolute most of the rushing attempts they did have. James Starks finished with 52 yards, 37 of them coming in the first half. He had crucial gains of 8 yards, 7 yards, 12 yards and, most notably, in the fourth quarter, 14 yards.
 
The common thread on all these plays was that Green Bay attacked running. The Packers knew they didn’t have the oxen to move nose tackle Casey Hampton, so they attacked the edges. Brilliantly, they used slow developing runs to do this. This caused the aggressiveness of the outside linebackers to work against the Steelers. It probably wouldn’t have worked if Polamalu had lined up in the box.

3. The mismatch

For the past two years, the weak link of the Steelers’ secondary has been cornerback William Gay. The Packers sought out Gay early and often Sunday. Jordy Nelson beat him on a fade route on the opening touchdown (this would be a harbinger for the rest of the game, as Nelson finished with nine catches for 140 yards and was targeted 15 times). When Gay lined up inside, the Packers were able to exploit him with crossing patterns.

To be fair, Gay was not the only Steelers defensive back who struggled. Troy Polamalu took a few bad angles in coverage (including in the red zone) and Ike Taylor gave up a crucial 31-yard completion on third-and-10 to Greg Jennings in the fourth quarter.

4. Packers front seven (or eight) stepped up

The Packers were without athletic outside linebacker Erik Walden (high ankle sprain) this game. But replacement Frank Zombo stepped up big. He took on blocks extremely well and – for the most part – held the edge against the run. He also sacked Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter.

A bigger injury was the loss of roving defensive back Charles Woodson. His absence was felt when Pittsburgh came out and completed crossing patterns passes and moved the chains on off-tackle runs early in the third quarter. Dom Capers was tempted to get conservative and utilize more traditional 3-4 fronts, but ultimately he tapped Jarrett Bush to play the joker role and stuck with the 2-4-5 that, all season long, has brought Green Bay magnificent success. Bush responded well (the design of the scheme gave him a clear pass-rushing lane or two) and the Packers defense avoided sliding down the sliJ. Bush (US Presswire)ppery slope they had found themselves on.

5. Pass-rush forced turnovers

Roethlisberger’s two first half interceptions that led to 14 Packers points were the product of bad decisions by the quarterback. But those bad decisions were the product of pass-rush pressure. Massive defensive lineman Howard Green ran into Roethlisberger on the first interception (the Nick Collins pick six). On the second pick, Roethlisberger felt his pocket collapsing and, uncharacteristically, floated the ball around A.J. Hawk and into double coverage.

Clay Matthews did not have a dominant game, but he got inside the Steelers’ heads somewhat by delaying his blitzes. Capers had Matthews line up as a quasi-inside linebacker early on. It looked like Matthews was spying Roethlisberger, but you don’t spy a non-Michael Vick quarterback with your superstar pass-rusher. Really what Matthews was doing was waiting for the Steelers offensive line to commit itself to a pass protection maneuver, then attacking. It was a shrewd concept given that the Steelers have struggled with pass protection communication at times this season, and given that they were without center Maurkice Pouncey.

Pass-rush pressure is about more than sacks. Green Bay’s front seven attacks disrupted the Steelers in subtle but costly ways.

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:16 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 6:21 pm
 

Breakdown of the 2009 Packers-Steelers shootout


B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)

Posted by Andy Benoit

Conversation overheard in the media center this week:
 
Media Guy A: Maybe it’s just me, but why does it feel like we’re going to get a surprising offensive shootout on Sunday?

Media Guy B: Because last time these two “great defenses” squared off it was an absolute scoring fest.

That scoring fest was a 37-36 instant classic in which a Ben Roethlisberger to Mike Wallace 19-yard touchdown on the final play resulted in a 37-36 Steelers victory. It was a fitting end considering that a Roethlisberger to Wallace 60-yard strike had been the first play of the game.

All week both teams have downplayed the relevance of last year’s shootout. And for good reason. The Packers, with dynamite tight end Jermichael Finley in the lineup, had a slightly different offensive structure than what they’ll have this Sunday. And the Steelers were without strong safety Troy Polamalu.

That said, this was barely a year ago, so what we saw is not entirely irrelevant today. Here are some of the key X and O elements from that contest (tip of the cap to Greg Cosell of the NFL Matchup Show for helping with some of the ’09 details).

PACKERS OFFENSE VS. STEELERS DEFENSE

Inside blitzes

Last time:
The Steelers attacked early with a lot of what’s called Fire X blitzes (having the inside linebackers cross each other to rush the passer). They were successful on a few occasions, though Aaron Rodgers amazed with his ability to deliver throws with defenders bearing down on him. Rodgers also built a lot of locker room cred by popping back up when he did get drilled.

This time: Inside blitzing has been a staple of Pittsburgh’s attack this season. James Farrior recorded six sacks on the year and rising star Lawrence Timmons was a thousand times better than his three sacks suggest. If (IF) the Steelers blitz, their interior ‘backers will be a big part of it.

Corner weakness

Last time:
The Steelers did not have No. 2 corner Bryant McFadden last season (he was in Arizona) and their coverage suffered. Ike Taylor, Willie Gay and Joe Burnett rotated throughout this game. Veteran Deshea Townsend was the nickelback. With so many players altering positions, and with no Polamalu helping out, the entire secondary lacked continuity and consistency.

This time: McFadden is not a stud, but he stabilizes the left corner slot. Willie Gay, who was unfit for a starting job last season, is in a more-fitting nickel role. Gay still has occasional issues on the inside, but this cornerback unit as a whole is in the upper half of the NFL.

Spread formations

Last time: The Packers frequently aligned in the shotgun with four and five wide receivers. This was to take advantage of the thin, “Polamalu-less” secondary.

This time: Given the way Rodgers has played, Green Bay’s depth at wide receiver and the fact that it’s virtually impossible to run on Pittsburgh, expect plenty of spread formations again.

STEELERS OFFENSE VS. PACKERS DEFENSE

Multiple formation throwing

Last time:
Pittsburgh relied on a variety of different formations to attack the Packers through the air – most of them of the spread variety. The objective behind this was to make Dom Capers simplify his complex defensive scheme. Mission accomplished. On the 11-play game-winning drive, Green Bay never rushed more than four.

This time: Pittsburgh will likely make a more concerted effort to establish the run, but it would make sense to do so out of spread formations. Spreading the field prevents the Packers from cluttering the box. The fewer bodies the Packers have roving around the box, the fewer options they’ll have for confusing Ben Roethlisberger and the offensive line.

Charles Woodson defended Hines Ward

Last time: This was when the packers were in more traditional sets (two and three wide receivers). Woodson, the ’09 Defensive Player of the Year, was utilized as a cover corner on what the Packers believed was Pittsburgh’s most dangerous wide receiver.

This week: Woodson has evolved into more of a safety in Green Bay’s scheme. (When he plays traditional corner coverage, it usually means the Packers are being passive.) But if the Packers do use Woodson as a cover corner, it’s likely he will face Ward again. That would be an excellent physical matchup. Plus, Green Bay’s other corners, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, are both better equipped than Woodson to handle the blazing downfield speed of Wallace.

Early pass-rush prowess

Last time: Before they got passive in the second half, Green Bay was effective with their zone blitzes. Clay Matthews, in particular, stood out.

This time: Matthews has only gotten better, but the rest of the Packers pass rush has leveled off just a bit. Brad Jones, the starter last season, joined the host of Packers on IR long ago. Replacement Erik Walden is athletic but battling an ankle injury this week. Still, straight up, Green Bay’s pass rush as a whole has an advantage on Pittsburgh’s O-line. Right tackle Flozell Adams doesn’t begin to have the movement skills to handle Matthews, and with center Maurkice Pouncey likely out, you have to wonder if the rest of the line will effectively communicate on blitz pickups. (Offensive line coach Sean Kugler credits Pouncey’s development as the driving force behind the line’s improvement against blitzes.)

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Posted on: February 2, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 3:18 pm
 

Matchup breakdown: Packers O vs. Steelers D

Posted by Andy Benoit

The Packers’ ground game doesn’t have a prayer against a Steeler run defense that ranks third all-time in the modern era. Center Scott Wells is a cagey veteran, but he struggled all season to hold ground against vociferous nose tackles. There may not be a more punishing run-stopping nose in the game than Casey Hampton. Even if the Packers can somehow neutralize that interior mismatch (and it’s doubtful they can), James StarkD. Driver (US Presswire)s, decent as he’s been this postseason, lacks the speed and agility to elude Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and Pittsburgh’s superb linebacking corps.

Green Bay’s best chance on Sunday will be to isolate their wideouts against the Steelers defensive backs. Don’t be surprised if the Packers spend most of the game in four wide receiver sets. That would force Dick LeBeau to play nickel or dime and keep either his leader (James Farrior) or most athletic player (Lawrence Timmons) off the field. It would also isolate at least one of Green Bay’s wideouts on one of Pittsburgh’s cornerbacks.

For Green Bay, the most attractive mismatch in the passing game will be inside. Steelers nickelback William Gay, who occasionally struggles in man coverage, will have his hands full against either James Jones or Jordy Nelson.

Also, expect the Packers to keep Greg Jennings on the right side of the formation, where he’s more likely to face Bryant McFadden. McFadden, like his counterpart Ike Taylor, is stout enough as a tackler to keep the catch-and-run happy Packer receivers from breaking a big one. But unlike Taylor, McFadden does not have great length or catch-up speed over the top. Jennings, one the crispest and most befuddling downfield route runners in the game, can exploit this.

Most importantly, spreading the field will create natural throwing alleys for Rodgers. This is critical because, with Chad Clifton going against James Harrison and Bryan Bulaga going against LaMarr Woodley, shaky pass protection will limit Rodgers to mostly three-step drops.

It will be fascinating to see whether LeBeau allows Rodgers to complete passes off three-step drops or whether he tries to counter the quick pass. Countering it likely means taking a reactionary defensive approach – something that is generally unfamiliar for LeBeau’s unit. Normally the Steelers love to blitz their inside linebackers (often this is what creates one-on-one scenarios for their potent outside linebackers). But to counter Rodgers’ quick strikes, the Steelers may drop eight into coverage and rush only three. Harrison and Woodley are both adept in space. If the linebackers are dropping back, Pittsburgh’s corners get to play zone instead of man. That helps appease the mismatch against Green Bay’s wideouts.

The X-factor, as usual, is Troy Polamalu. How LeBeau decides to utilize his most dynamic playmaker will determine whether the Steelers blitz or drop back. If Polamalu roves around the box, expect blitz. If he roves around centerfield, expect drop back.

Speaking of Polamalu, here's what LeBeau had to say about the legendary safety.



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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com