The Pittsburgh Steelers have sported the league's #1 ranked defense for two years running, with a pass defense ranked 1st this year and 3rd in 2007. After a sub-par 2006, a year in which he found himself benched at one point, Ike Taylor has played magnificent football for the better part of both 2007 and 2008. Below is a sizable sampling of the performances of various opponents' big name WRs that Taylor lined up across from the past two years. In parentheses you can find their league ranks that year in both the receptions and receiving yards categories. Granted, there are a few big games tainting his generally polished resume in 2007-2008, but not many. And in several instances, the numbers don't tell the story very well - see: Andre Johnson in Week 1 of 2008 (10 meaningless catches, many late in the game) and Reggie Wayne in 2008 (100+ yards and 1 TD, but the vast majority came on a fluke play).
Week 2 vs. Cleveland: Braylon Edwards - 3 catches (51st), 32 yards (31st)
Week 8 vs. New York Giants: Plaxico Burress - 3 catches (109th), 15 yards (86th)
Week 9 @ Washington: Santana Moss - 2 catches (19th), 14 yards (14th)
Week 13 @ New England: Randy Moss - 4 catches (29th), 45 yards (21st)
Week 14 vs. Dallas: Terrell Owens - 3 catches (28tg), 32 yards (13th), 1 TD
Week 2 vs. Buffalo: Lee Evans - 2 catches (51st), 17 yards (33rd)
Week 7 @ Denver: Brandon Marshall - 6 catches (5th), 77 yards (6th)
Week 8 @ Cincinnati: Chad Johnson - 5 catches (13th), 51 yards (3rd)
Week 10 vs. Cleveland: Braylon Edwards - 1 catch (21st), 16 yards (7th), 1 TD
Week 16 @ St. Louis: Torry Holt - 3 catches (12th), 41 yards (10th)
Moral of the story? Not necessarily one here, but if nothing else, it's worth remembering that Ike Taylor has gone up against the league's best time and time again the past two years and had plenty of success along the way. Can he have a big game on the biggest of stages against the dynamic duo of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald? It's very possible if the past is any indication. Taylor has had a few slip ups in recent memory so it's not entirely surprising that even members of the Steelers faithful are doubting his prowess on the perimeter of our defense. Fair enough. It is important though to acknowledge the data (not a trivial amount either)that substantiates the claim that Taylor is one of the league's most unheralded and under appreciated shut down corners.
Taylor clearly doesn't have the same celebrity as the Asante Samuels and Champ Baileys of the league - and that's fine. But with all eyes on Pittsburgh for the final game of the 2008-2009 season, here's hoping that Taylor can get some far overdue recognition after stymieing the celebrated Larry Fitzgerald.