Veteran cornerback Ike Taylor should be the talk of the town again this week, for entirely different reasons.
He used the pulpit on his own talk show, in his own blog and in interviews in the locker room last week to defend his play and that of the defense after another blown fourth-quarter lead in a loss Oct. 11 at Tennessee. All the while, linebacker Larry Foote said, Taylor knew he played poorly against the Titans and was determined to make amends Sunday night in Cincinnati.
"He took it personal," Foote said of Taylor, who was flagged for three penalties and let a touchdown pass go through his hands against the Titans. "He knew he had a bad game. I don't think you guys knew every play in the Tennessee game. Some of that stuff wasn't his fault."
But, "He knows he gave us some penalties, some plays he didn't make. He took it personal."
Sunday night, Taylor helped the Steelers beat the Bengals, 24-17, by nearly shutting down one of the best receivers in the game, A.J. Green.
Taylor, as usual, discussed covering the opponent's best receiver with defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during the week. He followed Green all over the field.
"It's a mutual agreement," Taylor explained. "I feel like whoever the best receiver is, I want to cover him. My coaching staff and my teammates have a lot of confidence in me, regardless what's going on, and I appreciate that."
Quite infamously, Taylor stated last week that the "stats are the stats" and some of those were used to point out his shortcomings through five games. But statistics favored him Sunday night. Green, who had the third-best average yards per game at 104.7 in the NFL, had one catch for 8 yards. It was an early 8-yard touchdown in which Taylor might have been able to make a play, but he made them the rest of the night.
"Green didn't catch much so Ike Taylor must have played a great game," Foote said.
Taylor has been doing this for 10 years. Since he became a starter in 2005, he has been benched once, by Bill Cowher in '06 because of some poor play. Since that season, he has not missed a start. Sunday night was his 129th consecutive game. That's the longest streak of any cornerback in the NFL, and the longest on the Steelers. Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber entered the season with a streak of playing in 230 to lead all cornerbacks, but he has been moved to safety. Former Steelers cornerback William Gay, who joined Arizona this week, is next after Taylor with 87.
"It hurts to lose and I let my teammates down," Taylor said Sunday night, recalling his play against the Titans.
"There's short-term memory you have to have as a cornerback, you have to roll with the punches."
Sit him or play him?
Halfback Jonathan Dwyer was inactive in the two previous games before Sunday, his spot on game day given to Rashard Mendenhall upon his return from his torn anterior cruciate ligament.
With Mendenhall out with an Achilles injury against the Bengals, and No. 2 back Isaac Redman not active because of an ankle injury, Dwyer got a uniform and his first NFL start at halfback.
He responded with the best rushing game (122 yards, 17 carries) for the Steelers in more than a year, or since Rashard Mendenhall ran for 146 yards Oct. 16, 2011, against Jacksonville.
It may have been Dwyer's first start, but it was his second 100-yard game. He ran for 107 as a reserve Oct. 9, 2011, in Tennessee.
"Awesome," Ben Roethlisberger called Dwyer's performance Sunday night.
"It was a blessing," Dwyer said. "Two of my teammates and my brothers went down, but it was an opportunity, and the next man is supposed to step up. As a unit, we wanted to fill that void. There's no letdown, even though our two top guys went down. That was our main focus going into this game for all of us young guys to step up."
It's possible Mendenhall and Redman could be healthy enough to return this week. If so, who starts against Washington Sunday at Heinz Field?
Dwyer has 192 yards and a 4.7-yard average. Redman has 127 yards and a 2.5-yard average. Mendenhall has 74 yards and a 3.9-yard average.
Mike Wallace had just one dropped pass entering the game Sunday night at Cincinnati. He now has four, and he acknowledged he would have felt terrible had his three drops in any way cost the Steelers a victory in Cincinnati.
"Ben had a great night," said Wallace, who tied his career high with eight receptions. "If I could have made a couple of more plays for him, it would have made me feel good. I think as a team we did all right."
Wallace is second on the team behind Antonio Brown's 442 yards with 397. He has four touchdown catches, which could have been five if not for one drop.
"I should have caught it," Wallace said of all three drops. "Bottom line, I didn't. I'll make up for it next week. We got the win, so I feel good about it.
"I make a lot of plays for my team. Sometimes you can't be good every week, sometimes you have an off weekend. This is one of those weeks. We still got the 'W' so that was big."
For more on the Steelers, read the blog, Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Ed Bouchette: email@example.com and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published October 23, 2012 4:00 AM