Known to drop a ball or two, Taylor comes up with big pick in first half vs. Seattle
The Steelers' Ike Taylor tries to intercept a ball intended for Seahawks receiver Deion Branch in the first quarter yesterday.
Ike Taylor takes down Seahawks receiver Deion Branch in the first quarter yesterday.
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If they kept statistics for dropped balls by cornerbacks, Ike Taylor might be in a league of his own. He would be the original manos de piedra, the Roberto Duran of his time.
It is not a category to which Taylor wants to belong.
Taylor and former coach Bill Cowher used to count the number of interceptions he would have had, if only Taylor could manage to catch the ball. They got up to 13 in the 2005 season and realized Taylor would have been just one shy of the single-season record held by Dick "Night Train" Lane.
"Coulda, shoulda, woulda," Taylor said yesterday after dropping what would have been two more interceptions against the Seattle Seahawks.
But a funny thing happened after Taylor let those potential picks get away in the first half: He came up with the game-changing play right before halftime, and he did it by stepping in front of Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu at the goal line and making an interception as time expired.
No bobbles. No drops. Just a clean pick.
Then he got up, ran off the field and headed for the locker room, hoping he wasn't dreaming.
No hands of stone this time.
"It's about time," Taylor said. "I had already dropped two and I was saying the same thing -- it's about time. It's very frustrating when you drop 'em because you give the offense another opportunity when that happens."
The Seahawks never really had a chance after that.
That was the only time they managed to get past the Steelers' 45 in a 21-0 defeat at Heinz Field, and they did it by moving 69 yards on six plays to the Steelers' 14, thanks to passes of 30 yards to Obomanu and 22 yards to tight end Marcus Pollard. Throw in a 15-yard penalty against safety Anthony Smith for a low hit on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and the Seahawks had a chance -- albeit their only one, as it turns out -- to cut into the Steelers' 7-0 lead.
But, on second down, there was Taylor, sitting in a cover-2 defense, cutting in front of an out pass for Obomanu and making the interception to end the first half.
When the Steelers started the second half with a 17-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 10 minutes, 17 seconds, the Seahawks were, in the immortal words of Dave "Tiger" Williams, done like dinner.
"To let them get down there and have them come away with nothing was key for us," cornerback Deshea Townsend said.
"They at least thought they might be coming away with three [points]," defensive end Aaron Smith said. "To come away with zero sucks the momentum out of them."
"It takes away everything," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "They go into halftime with any points, they're going to feel like, OK, we still have a chance. But they go in with that interception, then they come out and our offense goes 17 plays and drives it down their throat and scores. Then [the defense] goes three-and-out and we come back and score again. That's it."
Indeed, the Seahawks ran just three offensive plays in the third quarter and didn't touch the ball again till 10:06 remained in the fourth quarter. By that time, the Steelers had built a 21-0 lead.
All because Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren wanted to take one more chance to score a touchdown with seven seconds remaining in the first half.
And all because Taylor finally held on to the ball.
"We were in cover-2 and I had outside leverage, the flat, anything outside over there," Taylor said. "I didn't think [Hasselbeck] was coming that way because my guy did slant and then came back. I didn't think he was going to throw the ball."
Taylor had two other chances before that to intercept Hasselbeck: Once on a deep pass to receiver Deion Branch in the first quarter, another on a deep ball to Obomanu in the second quarter. In both instances, Taylor got two hands on the ball ... and dropped it.
That is nothing new for Taylor, who had only five interceptions in 64 previous regular-season games.
But interceptions against the Seahawks are nothing new, either. Taylor had a big one in the second half in Super Bowl XL, intercepting Hasselbeck at the Steelers' 5 with the Steelers leading, 14-10.
"If I would have to do it all over, of course I'd like to get three interceptions," he said. "But that one down by the goal line was big."
First Published October 8, 2007 12:00 am