The usual disclaimer: apologies to Fire Joe Morgan for hacky-ing up what they did so well. If the NFL labor issues had been resolved last year — like Ike’s contract should have been (see what I did there?) — I wouldn’t have gone through the trouble of giving the Trib’s John Harris the FJM treatment, Captain Pantload Watch style.
In his latest column, Harris again makes the case for why the Steelers should re-sign Taylor. Like anybody — the organization included — doesn’t think that’s a grand idea. Alright, let’s take a look at his argument. (The original column appears below in bold, my comments follow, unbolded.) My apologies in advance to everyone but Harris.
The Steelers want their cornerbacks to play like Ike Taylor, look like Ike Taylor and run like Ike Taylor.
That’s obviously what coach Mike Tomlin had in mind when he said new cornerback Cortez Allen, a fourth-round draft pick from The Citadel, is a “height, weight and speed prospect along the lines of Ike Taylor physically.”
Tomlin stretched the truth, but it made for a good sound bite.
Technically, yes, Tomlin lied. Cortez Allen is listed at 6-1, 197 pounds, Ike Taylor is 6-2, 195. Ike apparently ran a sub-4.2 at his pro day eight years ago; Allen managed a 4.5 at the combine in February.
Immediately after cornerback Keenan Lewis was drafted in the third round two years ago, former secondary coach Ray Horton parroted Tomlin’s words: “You would probably compare him to another Ike Taylor.”
To be fair, the Steelers had just drafted Lewis. What did you want Horton to say? “This guy is garbage. He’s fast, which I know will make John Harris happy, but he’s nothing like Ike once you get past the size, body type and skin color.”
If only the Steelers’ other cornerbacks performed like Taylor. Lewis is close to being considered a bust.
Nobody disagrees with this, not even Lewis.
Unless the Steelers acquire another cornerback who runs a 4.17 in the 40 as Taylor did at his pro day, never misses a game because of injury and starts in three Super Bowls in six years, their fruitless search for his successor will continue.
Using this logic, the Steelers shouldn’t re-sign Taylor since he only managed a 4.26 in the 40 two years ago. And generally speaking, people get slower as they age. Unless you’re Benjamin Button … which gives me a great idea for your next column.
Allen and third-rounder Curtis Brown of Texas ran in the 4.5 range in the 40 at the NFL Combine. That’s not quite Taylor speed.
Jairus Byrd ran 4.68 at his 2009 pro day. He had nine picks his rookie season. Ike got career interception No. 9 in the last game of his seventh season. Running fast doesn’t magically bless you with ball skills. Evidently, that wasn’t obvious.
If an appeals court in St. Louis rules in favor of NFL players, Taylor could become a free agent as early as this week.
So would Shaun Suisham. He’s not fast, but he scored more points than Ike last season.
So, why are the Steelers searching for an imitation of Taylor when they have the original?
BECAUSE IKE WON’T PLAY FOREVER. He’s 31 (Happy birthday, by the way, Ike!). If we’re lucky, he’ll be a really good NFL corner for another four seasons. But after that, guess what? The Steelers will have to replace him. They could wait until the moment Ike announces his retirement, or, you know, plan ahead for that eventuality. Common sense favors planning ahead. Then again, common sense doesn’t have Ike’s agent on speed dial telling it what to say.
Instead of re-signing Taylor last offseason as the team normally does with key players entering the final year of their contract, the Steelers gambled.
Last offseason Ike had a year remaining on his contract. The Steelers re-signed Casey Hampton and Ryan Clark, who were both free agents. I suppose Colbert could have just given Taylor whatever he wanted and Pittsburgh wouldn’t have to worry about him now.
Of course, they would have to move Ziggy Hood to nose tackle and pray Aaron Smith can make it through a season without his arm falling off. Oh, and Ryan Mundy would be the Steelers’ starting free safety because Hampton and Clark would have gone unsigned. OR: sign Casey and Ryan last year and worry about Ike this year since, you know, that’s how the organization has handled free agents forever. The Steelers somehow managed three trips to the Super Bowl in six seasons using this personnel philosophy. Maybe there’s something to it.
By allowing Taylor to become an unrestricted free agent, the Steelers must bid against other suitors and meet Taylor’s price — bad business for an organization that prides itself on calling the shots.
Yes. That’s how free agency works. In 2004, the Steelers outbid 31 other teams for Duce Staley. In retrospect, that was a bad move. Two years before that, they outbid 31 other teams for James Farrior. Turns out, that was a swell move.
As for Steelers free agents who have left Pittsburgh and gone on to great things — let’s see, hmm. Plax walked after the ’04 season and the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Chris Hope left a year later and Ryan Clark hasn’t missed a beat since. Joey Porter was released prior to the ’07 season and the team drafted LaMarr Woodley. Okay, I’ll give you Mike Vrabel. The Steelers couldn’t find a role for him and he went to have a pretty good career in New England. Also worth pointing out: he left Pittsburgh 11 years ago.
Potential Taylor suitors Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia, St. Louis and the New York Jets didn’t draft a cornerback in the first round.
Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one surprised that the Panthers didn’t take a cornerback with their first-overall pick. They were the worst team in football last year because they were lacking a quality NFL CB. Brilliant.
Cornerbacks aren’t protecting Jay Cutler, Tony Romo or Mike Vick in Chicago, Dallas and Philly; nobody on Earth had the Broncos taking a CB with the No. 2 pick — and more than that, they had bigger needs among their front seven; and in a shocking development, the Vikings weren’t sold on Joe Webb as their QB of the future. The Jets have DARRELLE REVIS. They drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round a year ago. Oh, and Cromartie — like Ike — is a free agent. I’ll give you the Texans; their secondary was deplorable last season. So from your eight-team list, one team has a legit need at cornerback.
Here’s another list created using a random city generator: Foxboro, Buffalo, San Diego, Seattle, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Cleveland and New Orleans. They didn’t draft cornerbacks in the first round, either.
That’s telling, according to new Steelers secondary coach Carnell Lake, who called Taylor “one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the league. I hope we get him signed.”
Or maybe it’s what happens when teams have to fill one of the other 20 non-cornerback positions on the roster.
Lake said the lack of NFL-ready cornerbacks in the draft didn’t help the Steelers in their search for Taylor’s potential replacement. The Steelers selected cornerbacks in the third and fourth rounds.
These are facts. This column could use more of them.
“At the very elite level of cornerbacks, the talent was even shallower,” Lake said. “As you got in the second and third round, you saw teams really go after corners, especially in the third round. That’s where people saw the most depth at the position.”
The Steelers are in a bind. They have to re-sign Taylor, even if it means overpaying him. They wouldn’t have had to overpay if they had re-signed him a year ago.
Great news: several Pittsburgh media members are hearing that the Steelers will likely re-sign Ike, who would like to stay in town. How do I know this? Because you told me in a column you wrote last fall.
“I don’t want to play anywhere else, just knowing what we could be. Pittsburgh feels like home,” said Taylor, a fourth-round draft pick in 2003. “I’m playing for a Hall of Fame defensive coordinator (Dick LeBeau). I don’t want to go anywhere else, but it’s all on them.”
Director of football operations Kevin Colbert discussed the state of Steelers cornerbacks without Taylor:
“It’s an unknown. A lot of guys haven’t played a lot. You can look at it either way. Will they or will they not produce once given the opportunity? You feel good about the potential. But that’s the same thing we’re taking about with any draft pick. We’re not going to know until they get extensive playing time. If a kid hasn’t had the opportunity to prove himself, we’re just guessing.”
More facts = less bullshit. This is a strategy worth pursuing.
Makes you wonder who are the real stars on the team. If Taylor is so important to the defense, why did the Steelers permit him to become a free agent?
Just a hunch, but in terms of on-field performance, the real stars are, in order: Ben, Hines, Mike Wallace, Heath and Maurkice on offense; Troy, Deebo, Ike, LaMarr, and Casey on defense. No longer any need to wonder. I just told you. And the reason the Steelers didn’t re-sign Ike is because HE HAD A YEAR LEFT ON HIS CONTRACT. If they had signed Ike, they wouldn’t have been able to sign Casey, Ryan and a handful of free agents last offseason. Please tell me you can comprehend how this works.
“A lot of teams realize if you prevent the receiver from catching the ball, you don’t have to worry about interceptions,” said Dave-Te’ Thomas of Scouting Services Inc., which produces the NFL Draft Report for 27 of the 32 teams. “But you do need that one big playmaker back there. When Troy Polamalu got hurt last year, they had Taylor but they didn’t have anyone on the other side. It put more pressure on Taylor because the other cornerback wasn’t covering his assignment the way he should. At least a third of Taylor’s plays were out of his territory.”
Oh, god. We have our first Dave-Te’ sighting. The same guy Harris quoted extensively in his last PR piece, presumably dictated to him by Ike’s agent. Dave-Te’ also proclaimed on a pre-draft podcast with Steelers Depot that the Steelers had serious needs at cornerback, and then announced that because Roethlisberger was an immobile quarterback they should take Danny Watkins with the 31st pick.
So is David-Te’ implying that Ike’s not that important? Or that Pittsburgh might have other needs, too? Like, say, Carolina, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Philadelphia, St. Louis and the New York Jets all had other needs?
The Steelers are built for the next two seasons. Their future is now.
Other movie quotes that could work here:
As key players such as James Farrior (36), Hines Ward (35), Aaron Smith (35), Casey Hampton (33), James Harrison (32), Brett Keisel (32), Ryan Clark (31) and Polamalu (30) are phased out, they will take the heart of the team with them.
If No. 24 leaves, the Steelers’ rebuilding process could begin sooner than anyone thinks.
Right. There are currently no contingencies for Taylor leaving in free agency. And there is no correlation between the Steelers drafting two cornerbacks last weekend and the fact the Ike isn’t currently under contract. (Or that Pittsburgh has now taken five cornerbacks in the last three drafts.) If Taylor bolts, Colbert will be left standing there holding his willy because he didn’t see this coming. Thanks for the heads-up.
Even with the next Ike Taylor on the roster.
I have no idea what this means, which seems like a fitting way to end things.
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