Two time Super Bowl Champion Ike Taylor, resigned by the Pittsburgh Steelers after the NFL Lockout, visited The Fast Life to discuss the cornerback position as a part of our “Need for Speed” series.
“It’s a cat and mouse game, when facing any type of quarterback or receiver playing the cornerback position, it just becomes a chess match,” explains Taylor of the high stakes position, “You want to win more than you lose, or you wont have that position for long. That’s just plain and simple; that’s just how this business goes especially playing corner.”
Business thus far has been going well for the ninth year pro whose resume boasts three Super Bowl appearances. “When you come into this facility it’s all one. We all have one goal and that’s trying to win that Lombardi trophy,” says Taylor, who along with his team, succeeded in their goal with victories in Super Bowls XL and XLIII. “That’s the ultimate team defensive scoring play … you see how many guys hustled, how many guys laid out [and] what it took for James to get to the end zone, “ recalls Taylor who delivered a key block on Arizona Cardinals tight end Leonard Pope on the memorable James Harrison 100 yard interception return for a touchdown run at end of the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. “And that just showed what we will sacrifice for each other on that field; when we say we play for each other and we all brothers defensively, we mean it,” adds Taylor.
And of the MVP of Super Bowl XLIII, Santonio Holmes, Taylor reveals, “It hurt me real bad. Santonio, that’s my little brother, if you can see what he do on the field, the guy works hard off the field. We are talking about a Super Bowl MVP player.” Understanding the NFL is a business Taylor states, “You can question what they do, but Pittsburgh feels like no matter what happens we can always reload, that’s just there mentality.”
Ultimately the Steelers did reload at the wide receiver position with highly promising talent. “We got some young guys right now, I’m talking Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace who are unbelievable; speed, quickness, and hustle they got it,” states the man charged with covering them in practice, “When going against these guys day in and day out at practice, it’s definitely helpful going into the game on Sunday. They found it a challenge going against you and I found it a challenge going against them.”
As far as facing actual opponents come game time, Taylor explains, “Guys tend to have habits a lot of habits, you got to watch tape, you got to pick them up, you got to get a feel for the relationship between the receiver and the quarterback,” who admits “it only takes one play to change the course of a game; any Sunday, any receiver, any play, I feel like I can’t relax,” adds Taylor, who further explains, “It’s a lot of things that goes through your mind in the course of three or four seconds during the play that you got to be on point every play because it’s small things.”
Something which Taylor credits his head coach Mike Tomlin who he labels as a “very intelligent guy,” with “a gift for just pointing out smaller details that I think nobody else will see . . . from a whole different perspective that you’ll never even think about.”
Of his two head coaches while a Steeler, Taylor offers, “Both of them are ‘players’ coaches. Both of them approach the game differently. Coach Cowher is more like a linebacker special teams defensive guy. Coach T is more like a linebacker secondary type of guy.”
While former head coach Bill Cowher who preceded Tomlin awaits nomination into the Hall of Fame, Taylor saw another one of his coaches inducted into the Hall last season. “I don’t know what team would take a day off and go to the Hall of Fame during a critical time when you are trying to scout players and get your 53-man roster down but that’s just how the organization and team felt about Coach Lebeau,” says Taylor adding “Coach Lebeau is a father figure, a very down to earth guy. That’s one of the reasons why we play the way we play.”
Also a father figure of sorts to him is Nike credited Master S.P.A.R.Q. trainer and speed coach Tom Shaw. “That’s my guy. He pretty much raised me. I’ve been working out with Coach Shaw since the seventh grade as far as with football talent and agilities, maintaining my speed,” says Taylor adding “I just tip my hat to Coach Shaw. I’m still with him in Orlando, still working out. Still hanging out with the young guys, helping them out and training them too, getting them prepared for the NFL.”
A preparation himself of which Taylor admits to being uncertain as to becoming a reality after not being invited to the NFL combine in 2003. “I didn’t even really know if I was going to get drafted or not because I only played my position for a year, that was my senior year,” explains the Louisiana-Lafayette product who credits “just having God given talents, being physical and fearless and having speed to go with it,” as the key to his selection in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by Pittsburgh.
Now a part of the legendary Pittsburgh defense, which ranked first in eight of the top defensive categories allowing only 62.8 rushing yards per game in 2010, Taylor knows
“When you put that black and gold on you know you got fans all over the world. Pretty much every game felt like a home game to us,” proudly states Taylor mindful of “how successful the organization’s been, knowing you have a chance to compete for the playoffs let alone the Super Bowl every year.”
And every year, twice a year the Steelers prepare for battle with a divisional rival who equally wants to compete for those same playoffs and Super Bowl every year, the Baltimore Ravens. “We play those guys twice a year, we know each other. It’s just who’s going to execute the most. Who’s going to play smash mouth and a get a jump on whomever for 60 minutes,” categorizes Taylor adding, “Coach Lebeau always comes up with a “fire” game plan and by “fire” I mean a great game plan and all we got to do is just execute it.”
On the field, Taylor is more than ready to execute, describing his game day approach as “doing whatever it takes to help the team out,” playing “between cocky and confident” or as Taylor calls it “swag.” “I love playing corner,” says #24, “if I could use one word to play my position, it’s being ‘fearless,’ and I’m talking physically and mentally,” remaining true to the Steelers’ pride and legacy.