Cook: Re-signing Taylor becomes a priority
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So the Steelers didn't get the cornerback they needed in the three-day NFL draft? They are going to re-sign Ike Taylor.
They had better re-sign Ike Taylor.
The Steelers know that. That's why they didn't reach to take a corner with the No. 31 pick Thursday night in the first round. They could have taken Virginia's Raz-I Dowling, who went to the New England Patriots at No. 33, or Texas' Aaron Williams, who went to the Buffalo Bills at No. 34, but they didn't have either valued as a first-rounder. They made the right call taking Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, who should help them for years.
The Steelers knew they have Taylor to fall back on.
They also didn't take a cornerback Friday night in the second round, although we'll never know if they would have picked Miami's Brandon Harris, who went to the Houston Texans three picks before their selection. Florida offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert was their choice. It never hurts to collect big, talented offensive tackles.
Again, Taylor is there to be re-signed.
The Steelers did get corners in the third and fourth rounds -- Curtis Brown of Texas and Cortez Allen of The Citadel -- but it's hardly reasonable to expect them to step in next season and be more than special teams contributors. They went as late as they did in the draft for a reason. There's much greater chance each will be a Keenan Lewis -- a bust so far after being the Steelers' No. 3 pick in 2009 -- than, say, an Ike Taylor.
There's that name again.
Some have speculated Taylor's price has gone way up for the Steelers because of the way their draft unfolded. Certainly, they need him now more than ever. It's hard to imagine them going into next season with Bryant McFadden and William Gay as their only veteran cornerbacks. It's not as if there's one out there in free agency whom they can afford or who fits into their defensive scheme, which requires a corner to tackle on run support as well as cover. You can forget about them signing Oakland Raiders free agent Nnamdi Asomugha to a huge deal. It's not their way to sell out for any free agent.
Taylor would be a fool not to use any leverage he has to his financial advantage. NFL careers are so short. A player has to make his money while he can. Taylor made it clear at the Super Bowl that, as much as he loves playing for the Steelers, giving them a home-team discount isn't necessarily a given. "You only get one shot at this kind of money. It's like hitting the lotto."
But Taylor might not have quite as much leverage as he and his agent think. The Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens took cornerbacks in the first round -- LSU's Patrick Peterson, Nebraska's Prince Amukamara and Colorado's Jimmy Smith, respectively. The Patriots got Dowling, the Bills Williams. The Texans traded up to get Harris. That's six fewer teams to bid on Taylor. The delay of free agency until after the draft because of the NFL lockout hurts him and all other veterans in his situation.
Of course, it only takes one other club to blow away the Steelers with an offer for Taylor. If that team steps up, the Steelers will let him go. They do not overpay for any player. You can't overpay. That's a rotten way to do business.
The guess here is Taylor will not get that outrageous offer. He has played eight NFL seasons without making a Pro Bowl, mainly because he can't catch the football. It's fair to think his value is greater to the Steelers than to another club because he knows their defense so well.
"I always get the other team's best receiver," Taylor said at the Super Bowl. "I'm used to it. Look at my tape. Look at anyone else's tape. I'm just as good if not better than anyone you pick."
As for all of those dropped interceptions?
"How do you define a shutdown corner?" Taylor asked. "Isn't it keeping the guy from catching the football? I think I do that as well as anyone."
The Steelers know what Taylor can do. They also have a pretty good idea what it will cost to do a new deal with him. They had preliminary discussions with him and his representative before the lockout put an end to such talks. They are not afraid of the number they will have to put on a contract for him. The feeling among people in the organization is they will get a deal done.
They had better be right.
First Published May 1, 2011 12:00 am