The Steelers 4th round pick in the 2003 draft, Ike Taylor has been a mainstay at cornerback for the Steelers since 2005. Well, apart from being benched for most of 2006 but we'll conveniently forget about that.
Last season, at age 33, Taylor's decline was evident for most to see. He wasn't the same shutdown corner he use to be, shadowing the opponents best receiver across the field no matter what. However his endearing inability to catch a football remained.
Taylor's decline has not been quite as traumatic as many have made out, and the Steelers front office felt comfortable enough to bring him back for the 2014 season, albeit at considerably reduced rate and owing to a lack of depth behind him.
The question going forward is can Ike Taylor, at 34 years of age, halt further decline and play at an acceptable level?
That's hard to say but at least Ike, as always, appears to be trying his best.
In an interview with Teresa Varley of Steelers.com Taylor adressess, amongst many subjects, his off-season workout programme.
As per usual, he is working out with Coach Tom Shaw in Florida. However this year, his training is more intense than ever.
There isn’t anything normal this year. I feel like the last two years have been mediocre. I have been doing a whole lot more than what I used to do...
I am working more on explosiveness. Coach Shaw has gone back to the old school New Orleans workouts, you have to pass out before you come and talk to him. We drink the water, but we are going all the way in. I have been at my best when we had that mindset in the off-season. I said coach put me to the breaking point."
It's curious to hear Taylor call his last two off-season workouts mediocre, maybe he has just been banged up, but at least this year he is going " all the way in" as he describes it.
This is not a normal season for Taylor, not by any means. He was facing the chopping block earlier in the year, and realistically this is very likely to be his last season in the NFL. Special effort is required, and that is what Ike says he is giving, coming close to his breaking point on a couple of occasions.
"I am more mentally tired than anything. We train outside in the heat. Football fields, track, mile trail in the woods. We do a lot of stuff. He is back to the old Coach Shaw..."
The Steelers defense needs Ike Taylor at his very best. There is perilously small depth behind him at cornerback and if the defense is too bounce back to its old stingy self, Taylor will need to be a help, not a hindrance. However, it is is clear no one wants this more than Ike himself.
"That is just me. It burns inside me. I have a lot of pride. We as a team have a lot of pride. We just have to get back to the old Pittsburgh Steelers way, running and hitting, and I think we are in that direction."