The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the premier teams in the NFL. They are a team with a well-known blue collar personality. Defense is king in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers have one glaring weakness on the defensive side of the ball; the secondary.
They are set at the safety position, but the real problem is the cornerback position.
Now that the lockout is over, the Steelers need to sure up their secondary if they want to return to the Super Bowl. Last year’s corners in Pittsburgh were Ike Taylor, Bryant McFadden and William Gay. The first two mentioned were starters but Gay played a lot as either a nickel back or in McFadden’s place.
Free agency is now about to start which means that Taylor could be leaving the Steel City, but the question is should the Steelers do everything they can to keep Taylor?
The short answer is yes, Taylor is the closest the thing the Steelers have to a shut-down cornerback. In 2010 he had 66 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, two interceptions and 11 passes defended.
Taylor is getting older, he is 31, but he should still be able to contribute for another couple of years.
Opposing quarterbacks don’t pick on Taylor because he is the best corner on the field in Pittsburgh. They pick on McFadden and Gay instead. McFadden and Gay caused the Steelers to be ranked 12th in passing defense last season giving up an average 214.1 yards per game.
McFadden had more tackles (81) then Taylor did last season, and he had 10 passes defended. In this case the statistics lie, because fans watching games can clearly see that Taylor is better. While McFadden is not as good as Taylor, he is a lot better than Gay.
Gay had a total of 48 tackles last season, and 11 passes defended. The numbers are pretty good for a backup but the problem is that he is too inconsistent. Gay gets beaten by wide receivers far too often to really contribute to the Steelers defense. What is even worse is that tight-ends can beat the corner on occasion. Tight-ends shouldn’t be beating corners.
McFadden is still under contract, so if Taylor doesn’t come back how will they replace him?
The Steelers aren’t big free-agent players; the front office prefers to come up through the draft. During the draft, the Steelers selected cornerbacks in the third and fourth rounds. In the third round they selected Curtis Brown out of Texas, and selected Cortez Allen from the Citadel in the fourth round.
Both Brown and Allen were solid picks (I wouldn’t expect anything less from Pittsburgh), but at this moment I doubt that either rookie is better or as good as Ike Taylor. I believe it to be necessary to sign Taylor to a new contract. I wouldn’t make it a long-term deal, but I expect the Steelers will give him a two-to-three year contract.
The Steelers have the best front-office in the NFL, so the fans should trust the team’s judgment. If the Steelers decide to let Taylor leave then that means that he is, in all likelihood, out of his prime and won’t be a large contributor to another team.
Whatever happens, trust the Steelers. They know what they’re doing.