With the Pittsburgh Steelers coming off their bye week and little to talk about in the interim outside of returning players, now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on what’s transpired this season and give out some mid-year player evaluations.
The team as a whole has suffered its ups and downs throughout the season, particularly the bi-polar offense that prefers the comforts of home. Even with all the road struggles, however, the Steelers are ranked seventh in the league in scoring, averaging 26.2 points per game.
On the flip side, the defense has struggled not only with youth and inexperience but also with injuries, en route to posting the 19th-best defense in points allowed, giving up 23.9 points per game, with hopes to start changing that down the home stretch.
Player: Ike Taylor, CB
A highly vocal seeming majority of Steelers fans were crying for the head of Ike Taylor after his rough 2013 campaign, insisting that he be cut outright in order to save on his $7 million base salary.
The front office seemed to be able to appease the bulk of these individuals, as well as the financial wing, when Taylor agreed to a substantial $4.25 million pay cut that allowed the Steelers to rebuild the team, for better or worse.
Of course, they weren’t anticipating that the veteran cornerback would go on to miss half the season due to a fractured forearm, which he suffered in the third game of the season following a friendly fire collision.
Up to that point, it’s hard to make too much of Taylor’s 160 or so snaps in three games without running the risk of drawing conclusions based upon a sample size that is too small to judge.
However, while he did miss a couple of tackles and drew a few penalties 10+ quarters of play, his coverage overall was sound. In fact, the tackles he did miss came while trying to clean up the mistakes of others.
Opposing quarterbacks tested Taylor deep a handful of times in his limited time, and didn’t allow anything behind him. He was on the hook for a few short receptions in his final game, but he played very well against the Ravens, including deflecting a pass at the goal line and in position to block another pass in the back of the end zone.
He did surrender one touchdown in the opening game at the start of the fourth quarter when the Browns employed misdirection to get their speedy receiver separation to the back left corner of the end zone, but his coverage when not targeted was promising upon reviewing his tape.
There’s little doubt that the Steelers will benefit in their secondary with the return of Taylor, even if he starts off with limited snaps back, especially with the demise of Cortez Allen. If anything, it would giving opposing offenses some size to think about.