In today’s world of professional sports where mediocrity often begets loot, an unselfish athlete who not only gives up his body for the team but also sacrifices financially is almost never seen.
Most of the young men (and some young women) from today’s bling-bling era tend to take the side of the “yen” rather than the yang. They would rather take the side of the “bucks” rather than the boys. It’s is usually all about me, me, me as opposed to us, us, us.
There is always an exception to every rule. One of the most notable that comes to mind, at least for this writer, is Steelers starting right cornerback, Ivan (Ike) Taylor.
He is one of the few starting shutdown corners, who will also play special teams, knowing that it only takes one illegal block in the back while running at full speed to end a career or one illegal chop block by a special teamer from the opposing team to use as a negative statement for his peers to give him a few high fives as they hit the club after the game.
Ike Taylor is also one of the best run stopping cornerbacks in the NFL. But hold on boys and girls, will he play out the rest of his days as a Pittsburgh Steeler before he is put out to pasture or will he be forced to seek greener pastures elsewhere?
Over the past few years Ike Taylor has restructured his contract a few times so that the core personnel of the Steelers could remain intact without violating any salary cap rules.
But you know what boys and girls? Although Ike and the Steelers are rumored to be discussing his future with the team, a deal should have been done following Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.
Recently I talked about Big Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu gambling on the field. Well it seems as if the Steelers took a huge gamble off the field and may have lost miserably if they fail to sign Taylor to a multi-year deal that will allow him to finish his career in Pittsburgh. Ike is the only constant in a defensive backfield that has been decimated by incompetency and injury. Game after game, weekend after weekend Taylor is assigned to cover the opposition’s best receiver and except for a few instances there have not been many touchdown dances at his expense.
Usually the only way the opposing team’s wide-outs can escape the coverage of Taylor is when frustrated offensive coordinators use disguised route running schemes placing receivers in the slot or putting them in motion just to escape the scrutiny and coverage of the “Dean of Swagger.”
Recently a franchise tag was placed on Steelers linebacker Lamar Woodley, justifiably so. But now hear this, Woodley will have to be compensated at least for one year a payout that will equal the average salaries of the top five linebackers in the league. Woodley started in Super Bowls XLV and XLIII. Ike Taylor started in Super Bowls XL, XLIII and XLV and a percentage of his compensation was delayed and deferred. You do the math. Taylor has given up money so that his team could prosper, now will the Pittsburgh Steelers “family” give one of their “sons” the proper allowance that he deserves?
First and foremost over the past two years they have tried many “experiments” in the defensive secondary and I will only say that their concepts at least so far seem to have been ineffective. The Steelers in just the past two years allowed left corner Bryant McFadden to defect to the Arizona Cardinals but after only one year they were forced to run back tails tucked between their legs and re-sign McFadden after their ill-advised attempt to convert nickel and dime defensive back William Gay into a starting corner not only failed, but failed miserably.
If they allow Taylor to depart, well let’s just say that you would be better served putting your money in a high yield CD (for you hip-hoppers that means certificate of deposit, not compact disc) than making reservations for Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis next February. The defense is only permitted to have 11 men on the field. Ike Taylor can play his man one-on-one. If he is not manning the right side, Pittsburgh will be forced to play cover two most of the time on both sides of the field especially in passing situations. That means the middle of the field will have huge gaps for opposing quarterbacks to exploit and safeties will not be able to cheat when it comes to stopping the running game.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand fully as does Ike Taylor that the game of professional football, at least to the owners is 90 percent business and 10 percent “game.” Why do I say this you ask?
Well because of this looming possible lockout in regards to the upcoming collective bargaining agreement. There is not anything that should be defined as a collective bargaining agreement. It should be called a collective greed agreement. The players did not have anything to do with the bogus ticket sales and distribution of approximately 2000 tickets that left people stranded in regards to attending Super Bowl XLV. These were not counterfeit tickets sold to an unsuspecting public by unscrupulous “scalpers” were they? No these tickets were sold by the NFL to a very loyal and trusting fan base. The owners are going to get loot. Ike Taylor did right by Pittsburgh and trusted the Steelers to do right by him, whether they will do so remains to be seen. If not, they may just have a recipe tailor made for disaster.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)