By Jory Rand
ORLANDO, Fla. (KDKA) — One of the Steelers biggest priorities in this year’s draft was at the cornerback position.
Kevin Colbert dedicated his third and fourth round picks both to corners and said he was operating under the assumption that long time Steeler Ike Taylor would not be back.
Taylor is an unrestricted free agent and until the lockout ends, he cannot talk with any team, the Steelers included. So KDKA-TV went down to Florida where Taylor spends his off-seasons working out to see if Ike wanted to be back in Pittsburgh once football resumes.
“For sure I would love to retire as a Steeler,” Taylor said. “I ain’t just saying this to be saying this. Like I would love to retire (as a Steeler), but we’ll see how they feel about me. They know how I feel about the city of Pittsburgh. They know how I feel about the organization. We’ll see how they feel about me.”
When asked about his relationship with Chairman Emeritus Dan Rooney, it was clear this was no ordinary (former) owner/player relationship.
“I call him pops. I don’t even call him Mr. Rooney,” Taylor said. “In my phone I’ve got him under Papa Rooney.”
“If you hear from guys on other teams, you can’t talk to the owner. Mr. Rooney out of respect comes down to the locker room. His door’s always open.
“And if you come in from somewhere else and don’t know Mr. Rooney, you wouldn’t know he’s the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s the type of guy and family over there.
“They say players first and they run their organization like a players first mentality. And that’s why you win.”
And ultimately now, it’s Mr. Rooney, Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert who are going to decide whether Ike remains a Steeler.
“Well, really Mr. Colbert drafted me. So Mr. Colbert knows what time it is. He’s got a lot of power over there. I don’t know if he wants me to say that but I did. Mr. Colbert almost runs the show.
“They put a lot of trust into his decision making and what he thinks. Just by the draft, some of the picks they’ve been having over the years, Mr. Colbert’s been the GM, successful.
“You can go down the line but at the same time I just want my market value. Whatever my market value is, I would like that,” Taylor continued.
“I’m not trying to be greedy, but I feel like I’ve put in a good amount of work over the course of the past few years. Like I follow the receiver. Revis follows the best receiver every week. Stop. Revis and Cromartie follow 1 and 2 receivers. You got a lot of guys that don’t follow the best receivers. It’s cool to stay on one side, but a lot of guys don’t want that heat every down, every snap or I could get beat.”
Taylor’s long time coach, Tom Shaw agrees.
“Ike is a guy that covers the best guy on the field, all over the field,” Shaw told us. “So if Santonio (Holmes) is on left, he’s on left. If he’s on right, he’s on the right. He’s the only guy that travels across coverage. When you talk about guys that cover, you have to look at the whole game he’s covering the best guy. The guy that’s being paid millions and millons of dollars to score touchdowns and Ike’s been covering them pretty good.”
Shaw would know. He’s been working with Taylor since Ike was a boy in Louisiana.
“Since the 7th grade,” Taylor said. “My uncle found him in a newspaper.”
“His uncle Herm dropped him off at 7 a.m. at Muss Burtalino (Park) in Louisiana when he was in 7th grade, and we’ve been connected ever since then,” Shaw said. “It was good because he was a kid, he had a desire and a passion to be a football player. He was a running back in high school, he was a running back for three years in college and then his last year in college, he was working out with Deion Sanders, Anneas Williams, Lionel Washington, Maurice Hurst, all guys some people might never have heard of but they’re all Hall of Famers.”
“And they’d been working out and teaching him how to become a defensive back, and finally his senior year, he became a d-back and the Steelers drafted him in the 4th round because he had such a good workout and it turned out pretty good for him,” Shaw said.
So good that his defensive teammates don’t want to see him go.
“We have to have him,” James Farrior told us. “We have to have Ike. He’s one of the best players on our team.”
Willie Gay agreed. “I came in and he was one of the leaders. Now I’m down here (working with Ike). For him to be on another team, it’d be crazy because I look up to him. I hope it doesn’t happen.”
Still, when the talk of business gets to be too much, Taylor can simply look to another one of his workout buddies to pick him up — Ike’s 4-year-old son Ivan, who tagged along on this hot spring day.
“Oh, he loves it,” the elder Taylor said. “Just him being around the guys, it’s great for me because the guys like him, he like being around the fellas. I don’t think he knows …he knows what’s going on– he looks at this every day, being with pro athletes, so for him, he just know they’re his homeboys. He calls them his homeboys.”
Whether those homeboys remain teammates though, is still unknown.
“The tape doesn’t lie,” Taylor said. “I’m durable, I don’t get in trouble. All I do is work out. What else you want a guy to do?”