Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has been ruled out of the big AFC North battle against the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend. Taylor has missed the past two games for the Steelers after playing at an all-pro level for much of the year. Without him, the Steelers allowed Tony Romo to throw for 341 yards last week while the oft-maligned San Diego Chargers passing attack was able to put up three unanswered touchdowns through the air a week previously. The Steelers haven’t won either game that Taylor missed this season and was a crucial figure in their victory over the Bengals earlier this season.
Without Taylor, first year starter Keenan Lewis will become the primary cover man across from AJ Green. After some early season struggles, Lewis has also enjoyed an all-pro type of season. Lewis was impressive in coverage last week against the Cowboys’ primary receiver, Dez Bryant, despite giving up a touchdown. Green is a much tougher matchup for Lewis than Bryant is because he is arguably the best receiver in football while Bryant is a good, but not yet great first choice.
Taylor’s loss won’t dramatically change Green’s status entering the game from a fantasy or impact perspective, although he should be better than he was in the first matchup when he was held to just one reception. Instead, the Bengals will look towards the other side of the field and, depending on the formation, one of Marvin Jones, Jermaine Gresham or Andrew Hawkins.
Should Cortez Allen recover from his own injury to reclaim his starting spot, the Bengals won’t have much of a matchup advantage to take advantage of outside the numbers. Allen is a very talented cornerback who is physically gifted and can match up up to the size of Gresham, agility of Hawkins or speed of Jones.
However, if Allen is not available, then the inexperienced Josh Victorian will be tasked with the responsibility of sticking to the Bengals’ second outside receiver. Victorian is too small to handle Gresham and nowhere near as good as the players he is trying to replace in coverage, so much so that either of Hawkins or Jones will feel confident about being able to beat him consistently.