There is a certain way of playing that Pittsburgh Steelers fans prefer. I’m sure it certainly applies to almost, if not every organization. But Steelers football is and has for many decades been personified for hardnosed, smashmouth football, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
That mindset transcended eras, and some may disagree, but it’s still present to some degree today—within the limits of the rules that have evolved over the years. it was certainly there in the 2000s with the likes of James Harrison, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Joey Porter, and the likes.
And the linebackers made sure it wasn’t just them. It had to be everybody. Defenders had to be afraid of getting hit by every single Steeler on the field in order to set the right tone. Nobody was safe. The edge wasn’t safe. Don’t assume you’re going to run over the cornerback. Certainly not Ike Taylor.
“My linebackers brainwashed me. My linebackers felt knocking somebody out was better than catching an interception”, the former Steelers cornerback recently told Shawne Merriman on his Lights Out podcast. “‘I need you to take the soul out of another grown man’. Like, that was the motto in the locker room”.
“If you play linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, your whole mindset is run through a brick wall and not think twice about it”, he added. “We love coming to the sideline and saying, ‘I got a body’. That was the whole thing in Pittsburgh when I was playing, put a body on a resume”.
And Taylor got himself a body every now and then. Sometimes it wasn’t even on defense. There was that time that he got Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens on special teams while throwing a block—not the first Steeler to catch Reed, of course.
Ike Taylor blowing up Ed Reed pic.twitter.com/BeLt3ZiNYI
— Steel City Star (@steelcitystar) November 24, 2020
There is a long tradition of Pittsburgh valuing physical cornerbacks, of course, whether it’s Mel Blount of Rod Woodson. Even their more recent players, like the current Joe Haden and the recently-departed Mike Hilton, carry that tradition. Hilton is among the most physical cornerbacks in the entire NFL, without a doubt. More physical than a lot of safeties, for that matter.
While the consistency of system over the years is a part of that continuation, I also think that the alumni pipeline plays a factor in the culture of physicality that the Steelers have built as well. When you have guys like Taylor and others who stay within the team’s influence and mingle with the current players, you want to embrace that mindset.
Of course, things aren’t quite the same. Even this year, they just lost some of their most physical players on defense in Hilton, Vince Williams, and Bud Dupree. Perhaps they can find another physical presence in the upcoming draft to keep things alive.