The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Pro

November 14, 2013

Taylor excited for chance at Johnson

PITTSBURGH — Forget the exotic coverage schemes. Throw out the double teams. Oh, and the triple teams too.

Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor figures there’s only one way to keep up with Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

“You have to take him mano y mano,” Taylor said.

Even if there is no one in the NFL, let alone the planet, is quite like the 6-foot-5, 235-pound player Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin calls “one of the best football players, period, regardless of position, in the game of professional football.”

One that seems to get open no matter how many bodies thrown his way. It’s why the Steelers (3-6) insist they’re not going to abandon their usual gameplan when they face Johnson and the NFC North leading Lions (6-3) on Sunday.

“We won’t try anything that hasn’t been tried, and he’s still about 100 yards per game and a touchdown per game,” Tomlin said. “We’ll do the best we can.”

Pittsburgh’s best starts – and in most cases – ends with Taylor. The 11-year veteran has made a career (though still not a Pro Bowl) out of finding ways to slow down the best guys on the other side of the line of scrimmage.

Name an elite receiver over the last decade and Taylor has probably lined up across from him more than once. Still, even Taylor allows Johnson provides a unique challenge. Sorry, there aren’t guys Johnson’s size who can out-jump, out-run and out-think everyone laying around on NFL practice squads, no offense to Steelers rookie Justin Brown, who is wearing the No. 81 orange jersey on the scout team this week.

“I’m up for it, and I’m glad the coaching staff feels that way about me,” Taylor said. “They like my skills and allow me to compete each week against a guy like Megatron. I’m a villain kind of guy. I like being a bad guy, so I’m going to stay on the bad-guy side.”

It’s a role he’s used grown used to over the last five years. Every time Pittsburgh ends up facing one of the league’s elite playmakers, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is asked what his unit could possibly do. Every time LeBeau’s answer is the same: Taylor.

“He can match up with these big guys that can really run because he can really run,” LeBeau said. “He’s been the guy that we’ve put on their guy ... He’s a great competitor and I think he’d be disappointed if we didn’t put him on (Johnson).”

The closest thing the Steelers see on a regular basis to Johnson is Cincinnati’s A.J. Green, who has developed a mini-rivalry with Taylor through two-plus seasons. Taylor has limited Green to seven receptions for a pedestrian 49 yards in the last two meetings.

Still, Johnson, who sat out Lions practice on Thursday because of an ailing knee, is different. Asked to compare Green and Johnson, Tomlin was emphatic.

“There is no comparison,” Tomlin said. “This guy is probably 235 pounds. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s a big dog.”

The easiest way for the Steelers to limit Johnson’s touches is LeBeau put it “to get the quarterback on the ground.”

That hasn’t happened this year. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford has been sacked just 10 times despite averaging 41 pass attempts a game. Of course, it helps having a receiver who gives you a massive margin for error.

Stafford is completing nearly 62 percent of his passes, the second-best mark in his five-year career. Part of it is experience. Part of it is an improved offensive line. Part of it is the acquisition of Reggie Bush, who becomes a fifth receiver when he moves out of the backfield. And part of it is the luxury of having the confidence that if you throw it somewhere in the vicinity of Johnson, the odds are forever in his favor.

At 6-1, Taylor is bigger than the average NFL cornerback. At 33 he’s on the back end of a prime that includes starting in two Super Bowls and playing on five defenses that have finished No. 1 in the league in fewest yards allowed.

Johnson might be the best receiver Taylor has ever faced. But he won’t be the first.

“I remember him lining up week-in and week-out against Chad Johnson and some of those No. 1 wide receivers,” Steelers linebacker Larry Foote said. “If there’s somebody that can do it, it’s going to be him.”

Notes: Steelers G Ramon Foster (ankle), DE Brett Keisel (foot) and LB LaMarr Woodley (calf) did not practice on Thursday and are unlikely to play on Sunday. .. Pittsburgh WR Emmanuel Sanders called Lions DT Ndamukong Suh the “dirtiest player in the league,” adding the Steelers are “not going to get bullied. They can come in with all the intensity in the world, but we’ve just got to match it.”

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Pro
  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0416 Penguins rally to wear out Jackets

    Brandon Sutter scored on a wrist shot from the left circle 8:18 into the third period, helping the Pittsburgh Penguins rally for a 4-3 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
    Beau Bennett and Matt Niskanen scored power-play goals 45 seconds apart in the second period, erasing Pittsburgh’s two-goal deficit.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shelley and McElligot Series serves as reunion for former Chiefs personnel

    Not so long ago, Bob McElligott, like most Western Pennsylvania hockey fans, would savor a long Pittsburgh Penguins playoff run.
    The Somerset native followed the Pens’ Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malkin nearing return

    The Columbus Blue Jackets are the closest NHL team to the Pittsburgh Penguins, at least geographically. The two franchises are separated by 185 miles of highway.

    April 15, 2014

Poll

Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads