Steelers' Taylor puts Denver fiasco behind him
Cornerback Ike Taylor, returning an interception Sunday, is determined not to let anybody down this season.
Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch goes through drills in front of offensive coordinator Todd Haley at practice Tuesday on the South Side.
Steelers' Max Starks works with rookie Mike Adams on drills at practice Tuesday on the South Side. Starks worked with the first-team offense.
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The image of Ike Taylor getting stiff-armed and allowing Demaryius Thomas to run away from him for the winning, 80-yard touchdown in the playoff defeat in Denver remains painfully etched in the consciousness of those who watched the Steelers season end just 11 seconds into overtime.
That it came on the heels of Taylor, the team's top cornerback, getting beat for 51- and 58-yard passes to Thomas in the second quarter -- not to mention a costly pass-interference penalty -- only added to the indignation.
But that image was nothing compared to the scene in the Steelers locker room when Taylor sat disconsolate on a stool, his head bowed, unable to look up at any of the steady stream of players, coaches and management who plopped down next to him to offer encouragement and support. While others were showered and dressed, Taylor remained in his uniform, staring at the floor.
"It's not even that I let myself down; it was letting everyone else down," Taylor said, remembering the moment. "I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to check the best receivers. I don't know too many corners who want to check the best receiver every week. That's like suicide. Any given play, any given moment, anything can happen. That's a lot of pressure. I want that, I like that.
"And I feel like, man, from the organization to my teammates to the whole Steelers Nation, I let everybody down. I was like, man, why this game?' "
Taylor, though, said he tried to forget about what happened and get back to work as soon as possible, even though the season was over.
But, no matter where he went, he couldn't escape what people were saying about him on Twitter. Thomas, who had 32 catches for 551 yards in the regular season, finished with four for 204, and the blame was heaped on Taylor.
"I was back working out the next day," Taylor said. "We lost on Sunday and on Monday I was back in Orlando working out. I was still checking my Twitter, and they were blowing me up on Twitter and I was just eating it. People have their opinions. But they're not going to say it to me, face-to-face. I don't like that."
"You take the game away, now it becomes personal with family members. Like, my momma has to hear this, my sister got to hear this, my son's mom got to hear this, my boy got to hear this. If they're going to say something, I'd rather everyone just put this on me. Back in the day, without this social media, it kind of got swept under the rug. Now, nothing gets swept under the rug. Everybody knows everything."
It might be coincidence, but Taylor appears to have adopted a different approach at training camp. To be sure, he certainly has been more feisty -- getting into three fights at Saint Vincent College with star receiver Antonio Brown, including two the same day.
And it was certainly a different Taylor in the preseason victory Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts: He held on to an interception and returned it 49 yards for a touchdown.
Has the Denver game fueled the change?
"I'm always fueled," Taylor said. "It seems like the trend right now that everyone has two Super Bowl rings, between us and the [New York] Giants. Not too many teams and players can say they got three. I'd like to be one of those guys who have three. If I say I got three, that means Mr. Rooney [Art Rooney II] and the Steelers Nation have seven. Nobody has seven."
Taylor won't have to wait long to re-visit the scene of the crime. The Steelers open the regular season Sept. 9 in Denver, and, in all likelihood, he will request to cover Thomas.
Even though cornerbacks are instructed to have short memories, Taylor will not forget what happened that day at Invesco Field.
"You're supposed to remember it," safety Ryan Clark said. "But it's not supposed to control you. You can't let it get the better of you. But you remember it. You never want to be embarrassed."
Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison said he does not expect to play in a preseason game but is holding out hope he can play in the season opener at Denver. That possibility remains slim, however, after Harrison had an arthroscopic procedure on his knee last week.
Harrison first aggravated his injury at minicamp when he said his knee "blew up" after two days of practice. He had another setback at training camp when he tried to cut on his knee during a rehabilitation workout.
He remains on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list.
"It flared back up, and I couldn't delay it any longer," Harrison said. "They say [the procedure] should help. Only time will tell."
After taking just a half-dozen snaps in team drills in the final practice at Saint Vincent College last week, left tackle Max Starks amped up his return Tuesday by working with the first-team offense for the first time.
Starks, who had surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament sustained in the playoff loss to Denver, said he needs to test his knee in pass-protection situations.
"It's being able to take on the force of someone bull-rushing you -- how you react to that and how you hold up," Starks said.
"The ACL comes into play when you're protecting and sitting down in a squatted stance moving backwards. That's where the ACL kicks in."
Starks is expected to be the starter when the regular season begins, but he would like to play in a preseason game to get acclimated to the new offense.
When asked Tuesday if he would like Starks to play in a preseason game, coach Mike Tomlin said, "Sure."
"I think I need to play just to get the real-time perspective with the offense," said Starks, who said he weighs 352 pounds.
"It's not like the old offense. For me, just to hear the calls live and react to it, see how my mind is thinking, that's the biggest thing I want to do."
Isaac Redman is feeling better after missing the Colts' game with a groin injury.
Redman said he was going to resume practice in individual drills only, but he ended up working in team drills with the first team Tuesday.
"If it goes well, I'll start doing more and more each day," Redman said. "It feels a lot better. It's not hurting me as much. I'm moving sideways right now."
Meanwhile, the Steelers reached an injury settlement with John Clay and released him. Clay, who tore his quadriceps muscle, is free to sign with another team.
First Published August 22, 2012 12:00 am