On the Steelers: Mega-pressure? Cornerback Taylor fizzled, then responded



Watching the Detroit Lions on Sunday against the Steelers in the comfort of home, stands or press box, you would not have wanted to be Ike Taylor in that second quarter.

That is when the Megatron he was covering, Calvin Johnson, caught five passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns. It is when Taylor dropped two easy interceptions. It is when Taylor committed a pass interference penalty in the end zone and a holding penalty that was declined because the man he was holding, Johnson, still caught the ball for a 22-yard reception.

In the process of all that, the Steelers’ 14-0 lead turned into a 27-20 Detroit halftime lead.

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Anyone else might not have wanted to be Taylor in that quarter … except Taylor.

“I didn’t feel terrible at all,” he said. “I’m getting paid for a game I love to do, waking up seven days a week. Regardless what people say, this coaching staff, this organization obviously likes what I do.

“Going against Megatron every snap, I don’t know if you can show me a corner who wants that. That’s a tough task, a mental task, but playing corner in general you have to be mentally tough.”

Taylor showed just how that approach to the game can work when he did something hardly any other cornerback has done, shutting down Johnson without a catch for the entire second half, giving his team a chance to rebound for a 37-27 victory.

All of that second-quarter yardage by Johnson wasn’t Taylor’s fault, either. Safety Ryan Clark took the blame for Johnson’s 79-yard touchdown reception.

“The deep play on the post was my fault,” Clark said. “I came out of the post, saw a guy open. It’s something that I do as kind of the protector of this team back there and we got hit on it. A lot of times [Johnson is] the guy they were going to. I need to be smarter and understand that.

“That wasn’t Ike’s fault.”

Clark also revealed that the secondary did make some adjustments in the second half after nearly everyone said they did not. He said he, Troy Polamalu and William Gay came up with their own adjustments and put them to use in the second half without coaching input.

“It wasn’t hard to figure out who was catching the ball,” Clark said. “Once we did that, there were some things we felt like we could tweak to our advantage. We did that and it worked out well.”

Clark did not go into detail about the changes. He said they often hear about it from the coaches when they do such things and that was no different Sunday when he said they got into “a little bit” of trouble for doing it, despite the success they had.

“It gets us in trouble a lot. They tell us. They have to say you can’t do those things. We understand that but in the end we’re the guys out there and there are no players on this team who want to win more than we do.”

Said Taylor: “You get to a point where you’re like, all right, man, enough is enough. That’s how we felt overall as a secondary, that’s how I felt individually and that’s how we played in the second half.”

Woodley goes to the right

LaMarr Woodley figures he lined up at outside linebacker on the right of the defense perhaps four times in his seven seasons. He’s willing to do it some more if his coaches believe it will help.

“Maybe we’ll give it a shot,” said Woodley, who played on both sides at Michigan. “It doesn’t mater to me what side I’m on. My whole college career was flip-flopping. That’s what I got used to until I got here, it was just right and left. I never had a problem with flip-flopping at all.”

His comments came after veteran linebacker Larry Foote suggested that Jason Worilds plays better on the left outside and that the coaching staff might have a decision to make because of it.

“It doesn’t matter to me, I can adjust, I can play both sides,” Woodley said. “If Jason Worilds wants to get some rushes on the left, I have no problem with doing that at all. Whatever he and team feels like is best, I’m up for it.”

Woodley, though, thinks playing on the left side of the defense is more difficult.

“The quarterback is looking at you, even though they say the best tackle is on the left side. When you have that quarterback looking at you, it’s hard to make rush moves from the left side. I think the left side is tougher.”

Attendance figures

With an average of 60,753 fans per game after five games, the Steelers are threatening to have their lowest turnout for a season at Heinz Field since they began play there in 2001.

While all games are sold out and have been since 1972, the Steelers still list attendance figures rather than tickets sold. Their lowest average per game in the previous 12 seasons was 59,698 in 2003. The second-lowest was 61,141 in 2012.

The crowd Sunday against the Lions was 57,905. The Steelers list capacity as 65,500 so there were 7,595 no-shows.

“If they choose not to come to certain games, that’s OK,” Clark said. “We know that If we need crowd support during the games, it still gets loud. ‘Renegade’ plays, the stadium goes crazy. The people who are there have been supporting us and we appreciate it.”

Injury report

Brett Keisel (foot) and Shamarko Thomas (ankle) did not practice Wednesday and the following were limited: Woodley (calf), Ramon Foster (ankle), Fernando Velasco (knee) and Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) because of injuries. Emmanuel Sanders, who left the game Sunday against Detroit with a foot injury, went through a full practice.


Ed Bouchette: ebouchette@post-gazette.com and Twitter @EdBouchette.

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