If you wanted to show an NFL game to a young player as to how to play excellent team defense, putting in last weekend’s Pittsburgh Steelers game might not be a bad choice. They had a huge task ahead of them playing on the road in a hostile environment against the defending Super Bowl champions. But in spite of all that they put on a clinic in sound fundamental defense and shut down the New York Giants offense.
But who stood out? I could list six or seven guys here pretty easily. So many players made big plays when their team needed them. However, I am going to narrow it down to two players that I thought really made the most big plays at the most important times.
First is safety Ryan Clark. Removing the bush league late hit call in the end zone, which was not only legal but textbook, he was solid and even more in all phases of the game. He was coming up to the line, stuffing the run game, dropping into coverage and disrupting pass plays. He might not be the youngest guy on the field, but when healthy he plays with an intensity that fans love, and solid fundamental assignment football that coaches do as well.
My other choice is Clark’s teammate in the secondary, cornerback Ike Taylor. Taylor has had one of his best seasons in his entire career. It seemed like every big pass play, it was Taylor there to squash it. His interception of Giants quarterback Eli Manning was pivotal to the Steelers victory, and he and his teammates ability to hold Manning to 114 yards passing was the key to the Steelers victory. A victory that should open a lot of eyes in the NFL to just how good this team can be.
While Clark and Taylor both deserve a nod this week, I can’t argue with the rest of the league. Taylor was awarded the AFC Player of the Week, and he’s going to be my player of the week as well. Taylor may never have the statistics that some of the other top corners in the league do, and he may be starting to arc down in terms of his career. However, on this afternoon, like several others this season, Taylor played as well as he ever has in his career.
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