The Pittsburgh Steelers love drafting big corners and having them develop for a couple seasons before they make significant contributions on defense. Depending on what they decide to do with veteran Ike Taylor this offseason, they could force their hand on what to do in the draft. At the moment, the Steelers have a decent three corner rotation in Taylor, Cortez Allen and William Gay. If the team does decides to cut ties with Taylor that would leave only Allen and Gay as any real players at the position on the roster.
Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes that the Steelers will most likely cut Taylor because of his huge cap hit next season. “If they cut him, they will save $7 million. That’s a lot of money, no matter how you look at it.”
Dulac also mentions the possibility of Taylor being back on a lesser deal in the same transcript. “The best Ike can hope for is to be offered – and for him to accept – a big pay cut.”
I believe that is what is exactly going to happen this offseason. It seems as though Taylor wouldn’t be completely opposed to a pay cut in an article by ESPN.com’s Scott Brown. “You’ve got to understand as a business it will always be a young man’s sport and I understand that.” I would think the team would be more apt to just go in a different direction from Taylor if not for the horrendous depth on the roster right now at the position.
The other cornerbacks on the roster are Antwan Blake, Isaiah Green and Curtis Brown. Blake won’t be anything other than a special teams player and I don’t see Green playing major snaps on defense. Then we get to the disappointment that is Curtis Brown. A third round draft pick in 2011 Brown has shown absolutely nothing in coverage. If Brown had shown more development maybe the team would have been more comfortable letting Taylor go this offseason. The only thing we can hope is Brown turns the corner this season. Even if he does though, he becomes a free agent after 2014 and would just leave that offseason.
This whole situation could have been avoided if not for the massive mistake by the team to allow Keenan Lewis to walk away without even an offer last offseason. Lewis could have slid to the number one spot with Allen still developing and Gay a solid number three guy. Now all we have to hold on to is the fact that Gay had a very nice season in 2013 and hope he can keep it up going forward. I still have faith that Allen can become a good starting corner for the Steelers but he definitely didn’t develop like any of us thought in 2013.
I have been one of Taylor’s biggest supporters over the years and he would have been more recognized around the league if he ever learned how to catch any interceptions. The past couple seasons though, I feel he has dropped off and has been getting burned a ton throughout games. Then to make matters worse, after getting beat continuously Taylor decides to have some kind of after whistle scuffle and talk trash to the same guy that just burnt him.
If the Steelers do decide to go for a corner in the first round there are only two guys that would be worth it at 15. Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State would be a perfect pick for the Steelers in the first round but the only thing is he probably won’t drop far enough in the draft. A more likely pick would be Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State. If Taylor is retained this offseason Dennard would be able to develop and play special teams as a rookie. If Taylor is straight out cut, Dennard would have to slide into the third corner role and the team would need him to develop on the fly.
The team could elect to just pick up a cheap veteran corner in free agency if they can’t get a deal done with Taylor. The only guy I would really think could give good value would be Javier Arenas from the Arizona Cardinals. Arenas would also add value on special teams as a return man which the Steelers desperately need.
Unless Ike Taylor takes a stance like James Harrison did last offseason, I see him being back with the Steelers in 2014. That doesn’t necessarily mean the team won’t take a corner in the first round but it makes it not a necessity for them to do so. Either way the team has a lot of work to do to replenish their talent at the cornerback position.