For the past 11 seasons, Ike Taylor has played cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Virtually throughout his career, Taylor has been the Steelers’ defensive weapon when it comes to defending the opposition’s top wide receiver. This past season, Taylor struggled mightily against some of the NFL’s top pass catchers which was one of the main reasons for the Steelers’ decline from being first in pass defense in 2012 to ninth in 2013. Because of that, a change could be on the horizon.
There is a possibility that Pittsburgh will move Taylor from cornerback to safety for the 2014 campaign. To me this makes a lot of sense. Current safety Ryan Clark is a 12-year veteran that has shown he can still produce. However, Clark will be an unrestricted free-agent this offseason, and the likelihood of the Steelers re-signing him is very slim due to his age and their salary cap.
In the event that Pittsburgh severs ties with Clark, filling the void with Taylor will give soon-to-be second-year safety Shamarko Thomas another year to get his feet wet since he played mostly special teams in 2013. In addition, both Taylor and Thomas could learn more under the tutelage of fellow safety Troy Polamalu and defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, both of whom played cornerback and safety for the Steelers over the past two decades.
Both Taylor and the Steelers organization will benefit from this transition. History shows that cornerbacks who move to safety extend the life of their career. Two prime examples are Charles Woodson and former Steeler and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. As for the franchise, it will give them a chance to address the cornerback position either through free agency or through the draft, which is an opportunity to bring in more youth to an aging defense.
At 6-foot-2 and 195-pounds, the 33-year-old Taylor has the size and physicality to play safety. More importantly, it won’t require him to cover much quicker, faster receivers the majority of the time since it seems he has lost a step or two. Making this move will definitely get the Steelers’ defense headed back in the right direction.
Clyde A. Speller is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @ClydeASpeller.