Pittsburgh Steelers: Ike Taylor Contract Status Key To 2011 Draft

Chris GazzeCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2011

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21:  Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers lines up prior to the snap during the game against the Oakland Raiders on November 21, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

How does the prospect of Bryant McFadden and Keenan Lewis starting for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense sound? If that doesn’t make you break out into a cold sweat, I don’t know what will.

That scenario is a realistic possibility if the Steelers are unable to re-sign Ike Taylor to a new contract.

Taylor has established himself as a very good cornerback who has started in three Super Bowls. The only thing that has kept him from the ranks of the elite is his hands.

Pittsburgh depends on Taylor to shadow their opponent’s best receiver week in and out and more often than not he is up to that task.

For this reason, Taylor will be very attractive to other teams, especially those with money to spend.

Taylor’s price tag just went up after the Oakland Raiders inked Stanford Routt to a three-year $31.5 million deal. (I’ll give you a second to look him up because I know I had to as well.)

Not good news for the Steelers who don’t like to pay players over 30 years old big money. Taylor, who will be 31 this fall, may be looking for one last big payday.

“This is a good time for me to be a free agent. Teams (have seen) my tape. They know my consistency. What I’m doing now, I’ve been doing for a long time. People are finally paying attention.”

Dave-Te’Thomas, the director of operations for Scouting Services Inc., believes that Taylor is in for a big payday, whether it is from the Steelers or another team.

“I think the front office has taken him for granted and thinks it can get a hometown discount. Let Taylor walk, and watch the Giants, Texans, Carolina, and New Orleans get in a bidding ward for him.”

“Who outside of Darrelle Revis, Charles Woodson and a handful of others can say they have the physical presence in the secondary that Pittsburgh had with Taylor?'” Thomas said. “Without Taylor, looking at their present roster, you have a big guy in Lewis, but honestly he's better suited in the zone as a nickel or safety. (William) Gay and McFadden? Both proved how lacking they are in the bump-and-run against Green Bay in the Super Bowl.

If you look at the cornerbacks in this year's draft, I dare anyone to find me someone that can step in and replace Taylor, especially right away, considering where the Steelers will pick in the first round.”

There in lies the problem. Though a deep cornerback draft, Pittsburgh doesn’t draft until the 31st pick in round one meaning that the top talent at the position will likely be gone, namely Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara.

That will leave them with a plethora of choices that may be projected as second or third round selections. But there is no doubt that the Steelers will focus an early choice on a cornerback.

“Spread offenses are going to be countered with, for lack of a better term, spread defenses, which is three down linemen and five linebackers or three linebackers and two hybrid linebackers/safeties and the secondary. So there’s more defensive back types,” said Kevin Colbert, the director of football operations for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh’s defense had trouble last season when facing some of the top quarterbacks in the league, including Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

“You’re only going to be able to dress four or five corners, so you’ve got to hope that they're quality and can help you win,” said Colbert.

With McFadden as a weak link and Gay, who is also a free agent, no better than a nickel back, losing Taylor would mean that the Steelers may have to place more emphasis on drafting a cornerback in the first round.

This would go against their philosophy of drafting the best player available, a strategy that has worked out just fine since Colbert joined the Steelers in 2000.

However, if Pittsburgh can work out a deal with Taylor, they will be in position to draft a quality cornerback in the second or third while addressing their offensive line, whether it is guard or tackle in round one.

When a team has a shutdown corner, they cannot let them get away, but the Steelers cannot break their organizational philosophy by overspending on a player over 30 years old.

It will be a tough negotiation, one that will have a domino effect on the rest of the offseason moves.