Much has been written in recent days about the Steelers and Kevin Colbert beginning contract talks with CB Ike Taylor. Both side seem eager to get a deal done, but there is some concern that enough money isn’t available to go around as the Steelers have also expressed a desire to work out deals with Willie Colon and LaMarr Woodley.
I believe signing Taylor to a new deal, however, should be the Steelers top priority this offseason.
Opinions on Taylor, like most cornerbacks, are wide-ranging. I’m one of the Steeler fans that believe Ike is one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL and has been for the past 2-3 years. Other fans are firm believers that the best move the Steelers could make is cutting Taylor tomorrow.
Probably the biggest reason that there is such a wide range of views on Taylor is because of his poor hands. There isn’t a stat line out there that people can look at and say a cornerback ranks 3rd overall in this number, therefore he must be the 3rd best cornerback in the game. Interceptions are always what people try to use to compare cornerbacks, but it isn’t a good metric at all. Taylor is not good at catching the football and has only posted 4 interceptions since 2008.
Interceptions are great and all, but the best quality a cornerback can have is coverage skills, not elite hands. One of the other reasons Taylor’s interception numbers are low is because the ball is hardly ever thrown his way. His man is usually blanketed in coverage. And it is not like he is matching up with weak competition. Ike is one of the few cornerbacks in the league who still follows the other team’s top receiving threat all over the field.
It is also important to consider who has played alongside Taylor in recent years. In 2010, a hobbled Bryant McFadden or William Gay started opposite of him in every game. Troy Polamalu was injured for large stretches of the season and Ryan Clark is not good in any type of man coverage. Taylor has been on an island during much of the Mike Tomlin Era in Pittsburgh and he has performed admirably. He’s an elite cornerback in this league and will be for the next 3 or so seasons. The Steelers absolutely need to sign him to a long term deal and hopefully give him some help in the secondary through the draft.