What Does Ike Taylor's Injury Mean for Steelers' Playoff Hopes?

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 18 :  Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sidelines during the game against the Baltimore Ravens on November 18, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor suffered what appears to be a significant ankle injury Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, and it could have a massive impact on the team's playoff hopes. 

According to Jamison Hensley on Twitter, Taylor suffered the injury early in the first quarter and was later seen in a walking boot on the sidelines:


#Steelers CB Ike Taylor is in a boot with shoulder pads off. Steelers listing him as out.

— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) December 2, 2012


The Steelers are in a crucial stretch of season with a trip to the playoffs on the line and the last thing the team needed was to lose its No. 1 cornerback. 

Entering the game with Taylor the Steelers had the best unit in the NFL against the pass, surrendering only 166 yards per game through the air. It was also tops in the league in total yards allowed at 257 (No. 1) and total points per game at 19 (No. 5).

Without Taylor the Steelers defense is in some serious trouble. Keenan Lewis is the starter opposite of Taylor, with Cortez Allen, a former fourth-round pick as the next in line in the secondary. 

Allen struggled against the Ravens after Taylor went down. After Allen on the depth chart is Curtis Brown, followed by DeMarcus Van Dyke—none have significant playing time or are at all comparable to the impact Taylor has on the defense. 

While Taylor seemingly hasn't been his usual self this year, there's a good reason for that. Injuries to Troy Polamalu, Lamar Woodley and others have allowed Taylor to be picked on more than ever as replacements have had to stack the box to stop the run.

If Taylor misses time, offenses are going to have a field day against the weakened secondary. It will also make the Steelers susceptible to being run on as more players will have to drop back into coverage to make up for Taylor's absence. 

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, the schedule is kind the rest of the way. Outside of the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers face easier passing attacks like the Cleveland Browns and Philip Rivers

The Steelers are currently in the hunt for the last Wild Card spot, which would place them in the postseason despite missing starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With Taylor gone as well, the postseason isn't such a sure thing. 

Pittsburgh simply needs to win games it is supposed to win, but that is always easier said than done. The deciding factor in the Steelers playoff hopes will likely come in Week 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals. 

It's manageable for the Steelers to make the playoffs with Taylor out thanks to a friendly schedule, but the rest of the defense is going to have to elevate its play in a big way. 


Odds Pittsburgh makes the postseason without Taylor: 60 percent