Steelers defense running like 'it's a track meet' so far in OTAs

Jason Miller

The mission this offseason was adding speed to the defensive side of the ball. That mission has largely been accomplished, and now it's time to get them up to speed, so to speak, with the technical aspects.

Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor held court with reporters Tuesday, making his first appearance at OTAs and dropping one-liners like they were potential interceptions.

Few are better than Taylor in a spontaneous open mike session. He is also revealing, which always makes it both fun and informative.

One bit he did drop, as quoted by BTSC's Dale Grdnic Tuesday, was something of awe in terms of how fast the defensive side of the ball is moving.

"(And) they've been texting me about the defense and said it's like a track meet on defense from the line all the way back to the secondary," Taylor said of his teammates contacting him about the practices he missed.

Past Steelers' defenses have been like track meets as well - more like the events inside the bowl that include the ones where heavy things are thrown great distances. The speed this team has added in all defensive position groups is arguably the main storyline for the 2014 season.

Taylor boasts he's still among that group, and whether that's true or not, he has a better chance of seeing the field than does, say, free agent pick-up Brice McCain. The new corner is a burner, and while he doesn't have Taylor's size, that's becoming less the mold for a Steelers defensive back as fast, slot-defending players are. The team is looking toward Antwon Blake, another extremely fast but shorter cornerback, to see time in defensive packages as well.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said this is about football, not track, and while speed certainly helps, if it defines a player, the player may not be very good. This is the leg up Taylor has on this season. He may not be the same cover cornerback he was in 2008 - one of the best defensive seasons the Steelers, as a team, have had in the last two decades - but he has experience and he knows his role within the defense.

Getting the track stars to advance to that point in a short amount of time is a tall task for the short players. If they can do it, though, the Steelers' defense can make some noise in 2014.

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