Colin Dunlap: Ike Taylor, The Leader
Who would have ever thought it would come to this? But it has.
For what some felt were all his braggadocios and vain ways as a young football player; for all the little spats he got in with media members after offering a quick, cantankerous answer, maybe Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has grown into a leader.
At least, that’s the way it looks from here. And it looks pretty clearly to be that way.
Good for him.
For that, I like Ike.
All Steelers fans should.
It appears the veteran is, truly, putting the team first.
Taylor, who will turn 34 in May, agreed earlier in the week to a steep pay cut to remain with the Steelers. He was slated to earn $7 million dollars in the final year of his contract, but faced with the possibility of being released, the fourth-round pick of the club in 2003 agreed to pare that number down to $2.75 million. No years were added to Taylor’s contract, making 2014 his 12th, and likely, final season in the National Football League.
If that happens, he will have been drafted a Steeler, play over a decade with the Steelers and retire a Steeler.
Good for Ike.
What an adult thing to do for a guy who hasn’t always been looked at as such in this town. He’s become older and it appears Taylor has also become wiser.
There is, however, an added layer to all this.
Taylor appeared to get a tad ragged toward the end of the 2013 season, not exhibiting the cover skills and speed burst that once forced him to among the finest in the AFC. That said, going into this season, it would look as if Taylor will be relegated to sub-package work and play that third corner with William Gay and Cortez Allen having the inside track to win the starting spots.
With Allen heading into his fourth season — and Taylor a full 9 years older than him — this would emerge a principal opportunity for Taylor to serve as a bit of a mentor for some new blood, a player in Allen who the Steelers will count on to serve a big role in the defense.
Taylor will also be looked at, in a way, to guide Gay, to help him with the intricacies of the Dick LeBeau defense that the cornerback is in his second stint with after playing for the Steelers from 2007-11 and returning last season.
Simply put, Taylor will serve a purpose on the field, but he might serve just a big a purpose in the film room, imparting his experience and understanding on his coworkers.
I’m thoroughly convinced Ike Taylor understood this was part of the deal if he was going to come back for 2014; that he would be a sort of player/coach.
I’m also thoroughly convinced the Steelers will take a long, hard look at a couple of top-level cornerbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft, as Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard or Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert could find their way to Pittsburgh.
Imagine that scenario, if you would.
Here comes, into the organization, a highly-acclaimed cornerback saddled with the responsibility of learning his way in the NFL at a steep curve with designs on infusing him as the starter sooner rather than later. At the ready is Ike Taylor, who has become now an old-timer, willing to show him the ins and outs of the position and get him acclimated — both on and off the field — to life in the NFL.
I can’t think of a better scenario.
That’s because, honestly, there doesn’t appear to be someone who has turned from someone you never thought would be a leader into a bona fide one quite like Ike.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here