Ike Taylor picked up his 2012 season where he left his 2011 one off by getting abused by the Denver Broncos on opening night in the Mile High city. Keenan Lewis won a battle over youngsters Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown for the corner opposite Taylor in Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense.
To say that both players have improved through the first nine games of this year would be a drastic understatement. Taylor has slowed the game down tremendously for himself and has limited his penalties while staying aggressive. He remains the Steelers’ top cover corner and it will be interesting to see if he is on the Baltimore Ravens’ speedster Torrie Smith or on the veteran Anquan Boldin.
For Lewis’ part, he hasn’t had to deal with many of the top receivers in the league simply because he guards the opponent’s #2 man, but make no mistake, he has improved tremendously over the season and is becoming one of the best run-support corners in the league. Whether he gets Boldin or Smith, either will be a major upgrade in talent from what he has seen so far this season. He has had his off moments in coverage like Taylor has but overall has been in good position.
Smith will challenge not just the corners but the safeties as well by getting deep quickly. Should Ryan Clark, Will Allen and/or Ryan Mundy not get to their deep third quickly enough Smith will be past them. He is a guy that shouldn’t be treated as just a speed guy either because he has evolved into nice NFL receiver. Boldin has long been a good receiver and can do a number of things well, but I think Smith and the tight ends pose a bigger threat along with Ray Rice obviously.
Because of the multiple threats of the Baltimore offense, Taylor and Lewis will have their heads on a swivel all day. Obviously what could reduce the tension in that would be a pass rush that actually gets to quarterback Joe Flacco. The Steelers have struggled all season getting sacks and for all the negative things Steelers’ Nation has said about Flacco, he’s a decent NFL quarterback who will torch us if given time. If Carson Palmer can do it and if Matt Cassel and look competent at times then so can Flacco.
Keenan Lewis and Ike Taylor are going to give up catches Sunday night. You need to understand this. Those catches must be challenged and must not result in yards after catch. With greater emphasis placed on the defense this week with the injury to Ben Roethlisberger, Lewis and Taylor face a daunting challenge but both should be up to it.