PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 30: Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers breaks up a pass in front of Taylor Price #17 of the New England Patriots during the game on October 30, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
In late July, the Steelers' top cornerback was working out, getting ready for the season, but didn't know for sure where he'd be playing. He likely wouldn't sit long on the unrestricted free agency market without a deal in place, and it was obvious both Taylor and the Steelers wanted him to remain in Pittsburgh.
But without contact with the Steelers' front office, Taylor just worked out, waiting for the labor impasse to be solved.
When it finally was, Taylor signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Steelers, the only pro team he's ever known. And it was a wise investment. Taylor had a strong season in 2011, playing a vital role on the league's top-ranked pass defense.
Then there was the playoffs.
Taylor reportedly sat dejected at his locker after Denver defeated Pittsburgh 26-20 (OT), eliminating the defending AFC Champions from Super Bowl contention. Taylor failed to bring down Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas on a slant he took 80 yards for the game-winner on the first play of the extra session. He was also beat by Thomas on three other plays, giving the young receiver the game of his career; four catches, 204 yards and a touchdown Broncos fans will not forget for a long time.
Taylor tweeted after the game: "Second I apologize for playing the worst game at the wrong time apologize to my teammates steelernation and family. Luv y'all to def."
It's hard to not want to take him back in with open arms.
As has been the case with Taylor through much of his nine seasons in the league, he had great games, he had bad games. Add the Steelers win over Arizona in Week 7 alongside the loss to Denver as his bad games. An almost comically aggressive Taylor went after Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald like he was made out of ham, racking up multiple penalties down field. To his credit, he did help keep Fitzgerald in check, limiting him to four catches and 78 yards (on 10 targets).
Taylor, as well as the rest of the Steelers' secondary, did an outstanding job against an impressive Patriots passing attack in Week 8, holding Pro Bowl WR Wes Welker to six catches and 39 yards, his second-lowest output of the year.
With a slew of young cornerbacks behind him, Taylor's contract was signed for his ability just as much as it was for his experience. He may not play out all four years of the deal (Taylor is noted for his extreme level of dedication to conditioning, and led the Steelers defense in downs played in 2011), but he sets the tone for the young cornerback trio of Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown.