Ahead of the highly-anticipated interview on with Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin Tuesday on The Pivot Podcast, nobody was arguably more excited for the chance to sit down with the future Hall of Famer than longtime NFL running back Fred Taylor.
Taylor, who played 13 season in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars (11 seasons) and New England Patriots (two seasons), was like a kid in a candy shop to open the podcast, stating how giddy he was to be able to sit down with Tomlin and chop it up around football.
One day after former Cincinnati Bengals’ cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones revealed he would have loved to play for the Steelers on the I Am Athlete Podcast with Chase Claypool, Taylor got into the mix, stating to Tomlin that wanted nothing more than to play for the Steelers after the Jaguars surprisingly released him after the 2008 season, cutting ties with one of the greatest players in franchise history.
Throughout his career with the Jaguars, Taylor was a thorn in the side of the Steelers, rushing for 982 yards and eight touchdowns on 231 career carries in 12 games against the black and gold, adding another 27 catches for 155 yards and two scores as the Jaguars went 7-5 against the Steelers in his career. Of course, one of those wins includes a 31-29 win over the Steelers at Heinz Field on January 1, 2008, which happened to be the second-to-last game of Taylor’s career with the Jaguars.
Speaking with Tomlin, Taylor told him how he hoped the Steelers were going to call him in free agency after the 2007 season after the Jaguars cut him. Instead, the Steelers drafted Rashard Mendenhall in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, and rolled with the likes of Willie Parker, Mewelde Moore, Mendenhall, and Gary Russell at running back that season, while Taylor landed with the Patriots.
“I’ve been waiting fourteen years for this….fourteen long years,” Taylor said to Tomlin during the early portion of The Pivot Podcast Tuesday from Tomlin’s basement, according to video via the podcast’s official YouTube page. “You just talked about being patient. 2009, the Jacksonville Jaguars released me and there was only two teams I wanted to hear from. One was the Patriots and the other one was Pittsburgh Steelers. Why ain’t hit me up boss?”
That question from Taylor to Tomlin drew some laughs from fellow hosts Channing Crowder and Ryan Clark, and also had Tomlin reminiscing. Taylor was serious though, and used that opportunity to drive the conversation a step further, stating that the genuine fire and energy that Tomlin brought to the field from the other sideline had him wanting to share the same field and colors with him for at least one season.
“Respectfully, at that point in my career, you can look across the sidelines and see, and you asked us why are we interested in having you on? So I’ll go back to then, you can look across the sidelines and see those coaches that you respect the type of energy that you brought after all of our matchups,” Taylor added, according to video via the podcast’s official YouTube page. “You would always come to the center field and find me, say good game. And I always respected that. ‘Give me your best. I’m gonna give you my best.’ Driving in today, I saw Heinz Field. I said, ‘boy, I miss that.’
“I don’t miss the game a lot. I miss the Xs and Os and the preparation part,” Taylor added. “Being on the field? Hh, that comes and goes, those memories. But that was the only stadium I can see and say, ‘man, I miss it.’ So for me, when I was a free agent, I would’ve really wanted to come here and play for you because I knew what you stood for. At least I thought from those short encounters, I knew what you stood for.”
Taylor’s words are just another example of exactly how Tomlin is viewed across the league from a player’s perspective. Players, especially veteran ones, want to play for him because of the demands he makes not only from his players, but from himself as well. Plus, he doesn’t treat them like kids, instead respecting them as men to be able to handle their business and continue to win football games.
That can drive some within the Steelers’ fanbase and even the media a bit crazy at this point in Tomlin’s tenure, but it’s a fact that it works with players, and that he consistently gets the best out of them. The standard is the standard isn’t just a cute little Tomlinism. It’s a way of life within the Steelers’ organization, and it starts with him.
He’s well-respected globally within the NFL structure, and it sure is fun to think of what Taylor could have added to the fold in Pittsburgh.
Of course, in 2008, Mendenhall broke his collarbone on a hit from Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis and played just four games. Parker rushed for 791 yards that season, while Moore added 581 yards with both scoring five times each on the ground. The Steelers went 12-4 that year and went on to win Super Bowl XLIII over the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23. It sure would have been cool to see Taylor on that team as the short-yardage back, but in the end the Steelers didn’t need him, reaching the mountaintop on their own.