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Steelers OTAs: Ike Taylor talks, but leads by example

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Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor turned 33 in May, and despite a youth movement at cornerback, and anonymous complaints by teammates about the physical fitness of others, he remains one of the best conditioned defensive backs in the NFL.

Karl Walter

It's odd one of the Steelers' most vocal players is also one of their strongest leaders by example.

Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor will talk after the whistle. Presumably, before the whistle as well. He has his own radio show, and he talks on there about anything, even if it seems nonsensical.

Taylor isn't expected to attend the Steelers' final Organized Team Activities session, beginning today and running through Thursday in Pittsburgh. Wherever he is, though, one thing can be expected; he'll be working out.

Hard.

Taylor is the paradigm of physical fitness. Never will there be stories about him not being in shape or showing up to camp overweight. He has the speed of a thoroughbred and the statuesque physique of any top-flight athlete.

On a team that had internal and anonymous grumblings of the physical fitness of one defensive starter, it is ironic to point to Taylor, one of the bigger trash talkers on the team, to quell such bellyaching (and belly expansion), but there was a time not long ago veteran leaders like Deshea Townsend showed the virtue of such dedication.

No one will accuse Townsend of being on the same level as Hall of Fame CB Rod Woodson, but he stayed in the league probably much longer than his talent would suggest because of his dedication to conditioning. Same goes for Chad Scott, a workout warrior who put in three years of work into each offseason.

The rules were a bit different in the days of Townsend and Scott, but the willingness to put the work into their conditioning shouldn't have changed - whether Football in Shorts matters or not.

The comments regarding outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley's level of conditioning after hamstring and ankle injuries held him back over the last season and a half is beside the point. There was a time in which Steelers players may have had other things to complain about among their teammates. Taylor saw Townsend and Scott in the early years of his career. Maybe he took something away from them, maybe Taylor just always had that level of work ethic. Maybe both.

The fact Taylor is at OTAs is Taylor being a leader. It shows younger players, while walkthroughs and mental reps are important, attending military grade conditioning camps and breaking one's muscles down to the very core of their fibers is equally important to maintaining a high level of performance.

And if they put in that same level of work, maybe they'll be the least injured and most consist starter over the Steelers' secondary, even at age 33.