Steelers Fever – Ike Taylor’s Contract Extension – A Good Move

Ike Taylor’s Contract Extension – A Good Move – By Robert Rousseau

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

For much of the last decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a team to be reckoned with. From 1995-2004, the team made the playoffs six times, competed in 4 AFC Championship games, and even played in one Super Bowl.

Ike TaylorThat’s the good news.

The bad news? They lost 3 of 4 of those AFC Championships and that Super Bowl.

There was a lack of above average quarterback play on a consistent basis, but there were some pass coverage difficulties, and that spells cornerback. Since Rod Woodson, the team had lacked a corner capable of shutting down elite receivers. Great run defense and a stellar pass rush, yes, those Steelers teams had that to burn. But if the other team was able to handle their vaunted pass rush, the team often found themselves in hot water.

Then came the Super Bowl Championship in 2006. One of the main reason for the change from contender to winner was the play of super- cool Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben simply came through like a star under pressure. But there was a more subtle change (perhaps not that subtle for Steelers fans, though). For the first time in a long time, a cornerback emerged that was capable of shutting down elite receivers.

His name is Ike Taylor.

The light seemed to flick on for Taylor last season, and he responded by taking elite receivers like Chad Johnson, Marvin Harrison, and Rod Smith out of their comfort zones.

Was he Rod Woodson? No. But he was damn good.

Then came time for contract renegotiations. Despite his solid play in 2005, few people thought Taylor would be signed before the season – rumor had it that the club and he were separated by about $4 million in signing bonus money, and Taylor allegedly wanted $10 million). $10 million may seem like a lot of money, perhaps even too much. But when one runs through some of the bonuses other corners have received recently, the amount Taylor was asking for doesn’t seem too crazy.

Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer recently netted $13.5 million in bonus money. Go south and you’ll find that corners Brian Williams of the Jaguars and Anthony Henry of the Cowboys were both handed $10 million to sign. Though Jammer may be a better hitter than Taylor during his career, he had never really shown the coverage skills that Taylor did in 2005. Williams and Henry are just not as good as Taylor, yet they commanded the kind of bonus money he’d been asking for.

The good news? None of this matters now. Taylor and the Steelers came to agree on a 5 year extension worth $22.5 million dollars (with a $6.4 million signing bonusFurther, the contract is laced with incentives that could add to Taylor’s new salary.

Perhaps the hesitation to sign him earlier had been because of his hands. Despite a host of pass deflections last season, Taylor only pulled in two interceptions (one coming in the Super Bowl). Maybe it had something to do with Ricardo Colclough’s growth. Or even front office worries regarding Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, two must-signs that will be needing contracts soon – Troy’s is up at the end of this season.

Considering they signed Taylor, however, it was all probably just the nature of doing business with a club noted for not throwing too much money at any one place.

Regardless of the nature of how it all went down, signing Ike Taylor was a very smart move. Having a cover corner capable of handling elite receivers is a very big deal for a team that likes to blitz. On opening day against Miami, Taylor basically proved his worth once again by shutting out ultra-talented Dolphins WR Chris Chambers through the entire first half. Though Chambers did eventually come through with 5 catches for 59 yards (not exactly a stellar day), he was thrown to over 10 times in the game. In the far majority of those situations, he was blanketed by Taylor to the point that commentator John Madden said “Ike Taylor (is) doing a good job” covering Chambers all game.

Forget the fact that Taylor once again dropped an interception (bobbled a ball in the end zone in the 3rd quarter). Madden’s statement pretty much says it all. If you’ve got an elite receiver, Taylor is capable of keeping him from having a banner day all by himself. That’s a rarity in this league, and signing Taylor before he could test the free agent waters was a great move by Steelers’ management.

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