Steelers vs. Raiders: Older cornerbacks relevant in young man's game

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and Raiders CB Charles Woodson are still big parts of their team's respective game plans. In a league that's evolving away from pocket passers and into Roethlisbergean off-schedulers, Taylor and Woodson remain strong.

The Steelers began drafting cornerbacks in an effort to establish depth, and give the team options in lieu of the expanding contract of veteran Ike Taylor.

The Steelers restructured Taylor's contract this week in an effort to bring some cap relief. That move largely marks a surrender by the team in a battle to remove Taylor from its starting lineup - a place he's locked down like an opposing No. 1 receiver since 2005.

The decision to convert Taylor's salary into a guaranteed bonus assures he'll be on the Steelers' 2014 roster, assuming they won't want the massive hit to the cap in the form of dead money. It also makes him a prime candidate for a contract extension this offseason.

The numbers are one thing, but Taylor's production is another. He's played well overall this season, as the Steelers' defense is rebounding from a rocky start to steadily climb its way back among the league's leaders in passing yards allowed.

Taylor's story differs a bit from that of Charles Woodson, one of the few defensive backs in the league older than Taylor. Woodson, 35, beat out Peyton Manning for the Heisman Trophy in 1998 - when even Taylor was still in high school. Woodson won a Super Bowl with the Packers, and, due to age and contract, was released from Green Bay, winding up back in Oakland.

Much like Taylor - even more so, actually - he hasn't missed a step. He's still the omnipresent but position-diverse defensive back he's been throughout his career. He defends the slot perhaps better than anyone else in his generation has. He has the hitting instincts of a safety, but the playmaking ability of, well, anyone. He tied the NFL record for defensive touchdowns earlier this season. He now has 13 career defensive touchdowns - which is more than all of the Steelers' running backs and wide receivers, except Jerricho Cotchery - tying him with Darren Sharper for the most in league history.

The NFL is transitioning from the stoic and strong-armed pocket passer into something in which quarterbacks have a set of reads for plays initially called, then another set of reads to use when those plays break down. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been the King of Off Schedule throughout his career, and it seems more quarterbacks are using this strategy - Oakland's Terrelle Pryor is developing a dual-threat, off-schedule reputation of his own.

Taylor and Woodson are two players who have been around for several offensive permutations and strategic new beginnings. It appears both of them will remain around the game, perhaps longer than the young quarterbacks they're now facing.

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