In a CBS interview, Ike Taylor was brought into the "best cornerback" conversation that has been featured prominently on sports shows since the Seattle Seahawks beat the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC conference championship.
Taylor, the 33 year old veteran and two-time Super Bowl champion, did acknowledge that the Seattle cornerback, Richard Sherman, has the best statistical resume as a cornerback in the NFL over the past three years, but did not agree on the notion that he is the indefinite best of the league.
"If you want to talk about being the best corner, you have to match up against the best receiver every game," Taylor said. "[You have to do that] for years in and years out. Not just one year but pretty much your whole career. I've matched up since '05 and this is 2014. So until he can match up and play the team's top receiver week in and week out, he's a good corner; but to say he's the best corner, you've just to humble yourself just a little by saying that."
Taylor references the fact that Sherman's role in Seattle's defense is to cover one side of the ball, rather than cover a specific person every week. Taylor is routinely the cornerback the Steelers have assigned to cover their opponents' best receiver each game since the middle of the 2005 season, when ironically the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks in super bowl XL.
While Taylor's words might not be loud enough to capture the eyes and ears, but they speak a truth to the NFL about players and longevity. Taylor has been around long enough to see many players achieve all-pro success but soon fade away in their performance.
A perfect example would be a cornerback drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of 2003, the same year when Ike Taylor was drafted in the fourth round, by the name of Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha made a big splash in the NFL with his fourth season when he amassed eight interceptions and earned his first all-pro honors. Asomugha would eventually end his tenure in Oakland and become the highest sought free agent entering the 2011 season, when he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles for a five-year $60 million dollar contract.
Soon after he signed for the Eagles, Asomugha did not produce in the manner which Philadelphia expected. He did have four interceptions in his two-years there, but his play was not consistent enough and he was released before his third season. Today, Asomugha is a retired NFL player after his third stint with a team, the San Francisco 49ers, failed.
Taylor in that time has won two super bowls and been an important role in the Steelers' defense which has been the top-ranked defense multiple times in his career. Even this offseason his role on the team is held in high regard and he remains a player that must be kept on the roster. While Asomugha has come and gone in multiple schemes, Taylor has remained the best cornerback on his team that has been the league's best defense multiple times during his tenure in Pittsburgh.
Whether Sherman will or won't continue his exceptional play at cornerback throughout his career is a question that only time can answer. However this Sunday he has an opportunity to go up against one of the best, if not the best, top-three-receiver tandems this year in the NFL; oh and a guy named Peyton Manning.
Sherman's performance this weekend could either be the firm stamp as a champion on his NFL resume, or be the door left open after his bold declaration as the best in the league. Should the latter of the two occur, Taylor's point of longevity may ring a little louder during the 2014 offseason.
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