PITTSBURGH -- The fall for Ike Taylor has been quick and hard this season.
After missing just three games (all in 2004) during the first nine seasons of his NFL career, the 12-year cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers missed four with a broken foot in 2012 and could be sitting out his ninth this season. Taylor didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday due to a sore shoulder and he's questionable for the Steelers game on Sunday at Atlanta.
"You've got to put your pride aside,'' Taylor said. "It took 12 years for me to understand that, but you've got to put your pride aside. You've got to do that, because playing corner ... you've got to be darn near 95 percent (healthy). Anything less than 95 percent, playing corner, it's not going to work."
"You're going to hurt yourself, and you're going to hurt your team. We've been talking about it, and guys talk about it when they're retired. They wished they would've done this or would've done that. But I got it. I felt at the time that something wasn't right, so (coming out) was something I had to do.''
Taylor referred to leaving the Steelers' win last Sunday at Cincinnati. He was burned badly by Bengals wideout A.J. Green, although he got little to no help from safeties Troy Polamalu and Mike Mitchell. Taylor is listed as having injuries to his right forearm -- which he fractured Sept. 21 at Carolina and missed the next eight games while it healed -- and shoulder, which made it difficult to tackle when he was able to be on the field.
Those were few and far between against Green and the Bengals, as the young wideout tallied 11 catches for 224 yards with an 81-yard touchdown. So, not only has Taylor's play declined the past couple years, but he hasn't been able to stay on the field as well.
"You get to a point where somebody else has to look out for your well being, because you want to play, regardless, because that's what you're used to,'' Taylor said. "You're used to playing hurt. You're used to being out there. That's just the routine, (and) it got to the point where you just have to chill out. You don't want to keep hurting yourself or keep hurting the team."
"(The big plays), we've just got to be on the same page every time. We always talk about having a lid on the can. And once that lid comes off, anything can happen. Anything can come out of that can. So, I don't really think they're mental errors. We've still got new guys, young guys, McCain and Blake, and Mike Mitchell is fairly new."
"But, like I've said earlier, I feel like the concrete is settling with the secondary,'' Taylor added. "I feel like everybody understands now what we need to do. Point blank, period. Just growth in general. We've got guys, but this is a brand-new group, as far as playing together. So, we've got to get experience playing together.''
But with cracks in the defensive secondary, especially including stalwarts like Taylor and fellow 12-year veteran Polamalu, the concrete isn't stable. That's why there are so many big plays by the opposition. Polamalu explained somewhat.
"It's a little bit of everything, not executing right, but they're making great plays, too,'' Polamalu said. "And it's definitely something that we're going to need to stop. That's for sure. ... I think it's an adjustment for everybody, every year, but there definitely have been a lot more new faces the last two years than there have been in the past.''
Polamalu noted that one major difference in recent weeks was the way the Steelers offense has played. Even though the Steelers have given up a lot of points, the club's offense for the most part has kept pace or surpassed it.
"We always want to respond, regardless,'' quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. "We always talk about answering a score with a score. So, regardless of if or how the other team does it, we feel we want to do that anyway.''
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau believed his unit actually played pretty well at Cincinnati, despite allowing several huge plays.
"We have to cut those plays out to get to where we want to go,'' LeBeau said. "I think we had them punt the ball eight times, which is pretty good. Cincinnati has got a good offense. We do have to eliminate those plays with Atlanta.''
And to accomplish that feat, veterans such as Taylor and Polamalu will need to elevate their play as well.