I think of all the starting cornerbacks I have watched for the Pittsburgh Steelers throughout my life, and it is difficult for me to think of two who are better than the current starting duo for the black-and-gold. At least not in the past decade.
After having a myriad of mediocre-at-best cornerbacks, with some bright spots along the way like Ike Taylor, the struggle has been real for the team’s defensive secondary in recent years.
After spending a first round draft pick on Artie Burns in the 2016 NFL Draft, the team acquired Joe Haden, who was cast off by the Browns prior to the start of the season, and suddenly the Steelers’ secondary isn’t the team’s Achilles heal anymore, but an actual strength.
In fact, the cornerback tandem is starting to garner some national attention for their play. The source? Former Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, who is now an analyst and writer for the NFL Network.
See what Taylor had to say about the duo, as he ranked them 3rd on his Top 3 CB tandem list:
Players: Joe Haden and Artie Burns
The Steelers bent but didn't break against Matthew Stafford and the Lions in Week 8. Stafford threw for over 400 yards, yet the Lions didn't get in the end zone all game. Haden allowed four receptions on eight targets for 66 yards, while Burns gave up four catches on seven targets for 88 yards. That's a lot of yards between the two, but the defense as a whole was great in the red zone. Communication keeps improving in this secondary, and it's showing.
Taylor cites the communication in the secondary, and if you re-watch the games you can see the impact Haden has had on the team’s back half of the defense. In the past you have seen the Steelers secondary scrambling around, resembling more chickens with their heads cut off than football players, and it would equate in a big play for the opposition. Now you see Ryan Shazier make a call, it gets communicated quickly and efficiently to the cornerbacks and safeties before the snap of the ball.
The Steelers defense, despite a porous effort in Week 8 vs. the Lions, still have one of the top ranked pass defenses in the NFL. They were No. 1 heading into Week 8, and fell to No. 2, behind Jacksonville, as they now average 180 yards per game through the air.
Could this be a direct reflection of the front seven getting pressure on the quarterback? Absolutely, but defense is a team game. The Steelers secondary is still doing their jobs more than they aren’t, and are allowing less than 200 yards passing per game. Just think about that for a bit.
While some bemoan their success, citing them not playing high-caliber quarterbacks, it is time to give the Steelers secondary some props, and no one should be surprised this type of acknowledgement came from Ike ‘Swaggin’ U’ Taylor.