Pittsburgh Steelers: Which Cornerbacks Will Man the Island If Ike Taylor Leaves?

Chris Gazze@ChrisG_PITCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Ike Taylor #24 of the Pittsburgh Steelers talks with head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

How does a starting defensive backfield that includes Bryant McFadden and Keenan Lewis sound? What about McFadden and Crezdon Butler?

It is a real possibility that either of those combinations could be the Pittsburgh Steelers starting cornerbacks once the lockout ends.

Adam Caplan of Foxsports.com recently reported that the Philadelphia Eagles “will show strong interest” in Taylor when the lockout ends.

As each week goes by, it seems as more and more teams are reportedly showing interest in Taylor, and the more interest there is, the higher his price goes.

On an appearance on Jim Rome is Burning, Taylor indicated that he would not take the hometown discount to stay in Pittsburgh.

“I need that market value. I work so hard,” Taylor told Rome. “I’ve been through so much, I feel so unappreciated, feel so underrated at my position, I feel like it’s my time to get my worth, in whatever city that’s in.”

Pittsburgh wants Taylor back, but they are also not a team that overpays veterans, especially not 31-year-old veterans.

But with such an emphasis on passing, cornerbacks will come at a premium, and the Steelers will have to spend top dollar on any starting-caliber cornerback.

Carlos Rogers could be on possible replacement, but at only one year younger than Taylor, he may not be the best option. If the Steelers were to pay the same amount, why not keep the player who knows the system?

Another possible option would be Jonathan Joseph who may look to leave Cincinnati. At four years younger than Taylor, he would be a better bargain. There are also many other teams in the NFL that would feel that he is the better deal which could drive up Joseph’s price. Plus, the Steelers rarely break the bank on big-name free agents.

That leaves the Steelers to sign a mid-tiered cornerback or allow their young corners to compete for a starting job.

McFadden figures to have one spot locked down, though he struggled last season.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports recently analyzed STATS, Inc. “Burn Rate.”

McFadden was one of the lowest rated cornerbacks on the list with a burn rate of 66.4 percent.

Last season, he was targeted 116 times allowing 77 burns for 870 yards and five touchdowns.

Part of his struggles could have been to injury, but if not, the Steelers are in trouble.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 21:  Crezdon Butler #40 of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New York Giants during their preseason game at New Meadowlands Stadium on August 21, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

William Gay is a free agent, and there has been no talk whether or not he will return. At best, he should be no more than a nickel back.

Enter Lewis, Butler, Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen into the equation.

Pittsburgh is deep at cornerback with a number of young players. Like the offensive line, though, they lack pedigree players.

None of their young options were drafted higher than the third round.

Lewis, a former third-round selection, has not shown much in his limited action over his first two seasons and is on the verge of losing a roster spot if he struggles in camp.

Brown has starting potential, but as a rookie who has not had the opportunity to work out with the team and coaches, chances that he can start or even play early on as a nickel back are slim.

The same could be said for Allen, who is considered to be an athletic project who is still two or three years away from making an impact.

That leaves Butler.

Butler was a hot name last year as a potential sleeper. Nothing ever came of that, but people remain high on his potential, and he could be the one corner to surprise.

Described as big, strong and fast, Butler has the physical tools necessary to be successful with the Steelers.

Butler was impressive at times last preseason, and now with a year in Pittsburgh’s defense, he should be more than comfortable in Dick LeBeau’s scheme.

Do not expect Butler’s youth to work against him either.

Mike Tomlin has found success with young players recently, including Mike Wallace and Maurkice Pouncey who both found themselves as two of the best players at their respective positions last season.

Butler should have an opportunity to compete for a starting role where the Steelers will hope to put his skill set to good use.

If not Butler, maybe this will finally be the season that Lewis fulfills his potential.

With or without Taylor, Pittsburgh’s young cornerbacks will have their opportunity to compete for a starting role, it is now up to them to seize the moment.


Follow me on Twitter @ChrisG_FC.


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