The one-time “lock down” defender, Ike Taylor, will be facing off against a familiar foe this Sunday when the Miami Dolphins travel to Heinz Field to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. Taylor will see speedster Mike Wallace line up across the line of scrimmage in what will certainly be the key matchup in a game that both teams desperately need to win.
Anyone from Pittsburgh knows the speed that Wallace possesses. They saw it for years when he donned the black and gold, but what scares Steelers fans the most is how the once-reliable Taylor has become less and less dependable as the season has progressed.
Taylor always shadows the opponent’s best receiver. In the past three games, here is how he has done against the opponent’s No. 1 wide out.
- Vs. Detroit Lions – Calvin Johnson – Six receptions, 179 yards and two TDs.
- At Cleveland Browns – Josh Gordon – 14 recceptions 237 yards and one TD.
- At Baltimore Ravens – Torrey Smith – Six receptions, 93 yards and one TD.
Not the numbers you would expect against a “shut down” cornerback. Some of those numbers might be a little misleading as Gordon’s yards were mainly garnered after the game had already been decided, and Smith’s lone touchdown was blown inside coverage. Plain and simple, though, Ike Taylor simply isn’t the defensive back that he used to be.
With that being said, let’s not paint a picture that Wallace will completely dominate this matchup because when it comes down to the logistics, there are more moving parts in this matchup than just the cornerback versus the wide receiver.
The Dolphins’ offensive line has allowed eight sacks on quarterback Ryan Tannehill over the duration of the last four football games. This is something the Steelers’ defense will look to exploit to eliminate the Wallace deep pass. However, outside of pressuring the quarterback, people might want to remember that Wallace isn’t necessarily setting the NFL on fire from a receiving standpoint. Wallace doesn’t even have the most yards receiving on the Dolphins team. That honor belongs to Brian Hartline, who has 804 yard receiving to Wallace’s 743.
On top of the lack of yardage Wallace has produced, he also hasn’t been getting into the end zone. Wallace only has three touchdowns, and that is tied for second on the team.
In my opinion, what makes this matchup truly interesting is the fact that you have a former top tier defensive back against a wide receiver that can be a huge playmaker if given the opportunity. There is a good chance the winner of this particular matchup will be seeing their team victorious on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Who wins the matchup? Only time will tell.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz