Cornerbacks Ike Taylor and Deshea Townsend, and defensive backs coach Ray Horton discuss the secondary problems of 2006.
Are you more serious with the media this year?
I am. Growing up, you know. I guess that comes with the territory. Itís just focus. Thatís all it is.
How are you looking at this year?
Like every year, trying to be the best I can be, trying to go to the Pro Bowl, trying to help my team as much as possible.
Do you feel this is a rebound effort for you?
It depends on how YOU want to look at it. For me, everybody goes through their ups and downs. You just want to be consistent with it. Itís not a problem with me. I know what I can do. YOU know what I can do. Itís just a matter of me going out and doing it.
Will you admit there was some inconsistency last year?
Right, but thatís with anything. Itís not just me. Youíve got to look at the overall picture. Everybodyís not going to have a good game. Some people donít even have a good season. But itís important to bounce back from that season, from that game. The longer you play, youíre going to go through your ups and downs. I felt in the 2005 year for the Super Bowl, I couldnít do no wrong. So I knew sooner or later it was going to happen to me, and it happened to me last year. Itís over with; itís done. Now itís the 2007 season.
Everybody pegged you as the cover corner and thatís why your inconsistencies bothered the fans and the media. Are you the cover corner?
I leave that up to yíall. I leave that up to my teammates, the coaching staff. I feel like I am, but at the same time yíall got to stick with me through my ups and downs. Thatís how itís going to be. You can look at any corner. Go around the league; any corner. They have bad games. It just comes with the territory. If a defensive lineman has a bad game, yíall ainít going to see. If a linebacker has a bad game, who knows? But if a corner has a bad game itís more obvious, so itís understandable. We know it comes with the territory and we play through it.
Do you have your confidence back?
No question. I never lost it. Itís just that when youíre playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers
and youíve got a fan base nationwide, it hurts to let the 10 guys down and the fan base down. We are human. It hurt me. But at the same time, youíve got to stick with me. Anybody, any one of my teammates, no matter what weíre going through, we still need that support.
Bill Cowher didnít stick with you. Does that still, to this day, bug you?
It comes with the territory.
Coaches usually stick with their guys, donít they?
Hey, it comes with the territory. That was last year. Iím going to leave last year alone. This is a whole new season, a whole new year. Weíve got some new, exciting young guys. Iím just glad to be back playing football.
They drafted pass-rushers in the first two rounds. Thereís no question that will help the secondary. Was the pass rush a problem for you last year?
To be honest with you, as a whole the team couldíve played better hands down. We all know that.
What about the new staff? I saw Tomlin talking to you one-on-one. Do head coaches give technique instruction? And is he doing that?
He coached the position. And Iíve got a great coaching staff. Coach LeBeau, he should be in the Hall of Fame, he played for like 17 years. Coach Ray Horton played for 10. Coach Ray Jackson played for another eight or nine. Then youíve got the head coach, Coach Tomlin was a defensive coordinator. So anything they tell me, Iím all ears.
Are there too many cooks in the kitchen?
No, not at all, because I think every coach has something to say. Coach LeBeau is more laid back, and if he tells you something youíve got to do it, because he donít speak too often. Coach Ray, thatís our coach so he gets paid to coach us up. Coach Tomlin, if he sees small things in between, heís going to tell you.
Has Tomlin given you any tips? And is there a change in techniques?
Not techniques. Coach LeBeau, he and Coach Ray always want us to be technicians. Thereíve been some tweaks here and there. Iím a tall corner, so staying low for me is my best position to break in and out of breaks. Thatís something Iíve had to work on the last year and a half, and thatís what Iíve been doing. As far as changing anything, so far I donít see anything changing.
Any more cover-two stuff?
Weíve been doing that. Weíve been mixing it up. Coach LeBeau has been mixing it up since Iíve been here.
So that mix isnít going to change?
Okay, so what are you seeing this year? Whatís your soul telling you about you and the team?
Iím going to take it one step at a time. As for the big picture, the Super Bowl Ė and Iím talking realistically Ė I think weíve got a shot. I think weíve got a great shot. I mean, we always talk about the talent we have, but I saw a shirt, a Hines Ward
shirt, it said, ďTalent doesnít mean nothing without hard work, but if you put in hard work that equals hard work.Ē I thought that was a great philosophy. Weíve definitely got the talent. Now, weíre laying the foundation down. Weíre taking it step by step and we know thereís going to be some bumps in the road. But as Coach LeBeau said, you have to pick up the offense if itís having a down game, because thereís going to be some games when theyíre going to have to pick us up. Everything goes hand in hand.
You should be wearing that shirt.
Itís cool. I just look at the guys we have, like Coach Tomlin, the same defensive coordinator and our staff. Weíve got a great group of guys. Itís not really about anything else but going out and playing for the other 10 guys we have on the field. Thatís what itís all about. I donít want to let Casey down. I donít want to let James down. I donít want to let Troy down. Thatís how I think. Everything else comes with the territory. The media come with the territory. Yíall get paid to observe and make your opinions and we understand that. But letting those 10 guys down out on the field? Aw, man, that hurts.
How is the new staff affecting the defensive backs?
Well we still have the same philosophy. Nothing has really changed but we have a lot of young players who are coming into their own and weíve got a good group of guys who understand the defense. Any time you have that itís going to make the secondary pretty good.
Is Mike more hands-on with the secondary than Bill was?
Coach was a DB coach and they had some good DBs at Cleveland, so he used to talk to us all the time about DB play, but Mike, being a DB coach, he was working at that position. I wouldnít say he was more hands-on. They both do a lot of talking to us about the importance of DB play.
Has Mike given you any usable tips?
Everything you hear from a coach is pretty good, especially with coaches who watch as much film and have been around the game as the DB coaches we have. I donít know if theyíve wowed me, but you have to take everything in that he gives you.
So, youíve heard it all before?
No, never will I say Iíve heard it all. You can always learn new things. When you think youíve heard it all thatís when youíre going to be in trouble.
What about Ike? Is he still The cover corner?
He is that guy. Heís a great physical athlete thatís getting better. The one thing about him is heís young, so heís still learning the little things about the game that apply to covering. When you look at the great cover guys, they get plays made on them too. But a lot of times we get the brunt of things that happen but you have to take that as a corner and make yourself stronger. Some guys have down years, up years, but the one thing that you have to be when youíre a corner is to be consistent and I think Ikeís going to be that. Heís new to the position and still learning, and when you have a guy whoís still learning, with those physical abilities that he has, heís going to be a good one.
Did he deserve to be benched?
You can never second-guess coaches. Itís the coachesí job to coach and our job to play. When you have that mindset you have to take that coaching and go with it, because decisions have to be made. The one thing about Ike, when that happened you never saw him with his head down, you never saw him quit working, and when it was his chance to get back on the field he went out there and played. Thatís whatís going to make him a professional. And when you become a professional like that, you have a chance to become a great corner.
Have you noticed how serious he is this year?
Yes, and thatís whatís going to make him a good one. He knows he has to go out there and do his job. Iím sure, being a young corner, itís easy to get caught up in what their saying and to worry about it. I know that in the 10 years Iíve been here Iíve heard a lot. Theyíre always bringing in somebody to take my job, but you canít worry about that. To be good, youíve got to get out here and do your job. Thatís one thing Ike is starting to learn.
Who lined up at first team RCB the first day here?
They still canít take the job from you, can they?
Well, my thing is I want to play. Whatever decision they make, I want to be on the field. If itís not me starting, tell me where Iím going to be. If itís nickel, Iím going to come out here and play at a high level. Thatís the thing about a lot of guys on this team. I donít think a lot of guys could care. If something happens, you wonít see them going crazy to the media, saying they should be playing. They just go out and do their job. Thatís another thing to say about the Rooneys, the type of guys that they draft. To be a great team, a consistent team, youíve got to have guys do whatever it takes to win.
How do you rebuild the confidence of your cover corner?
Iím not sure if he lost his confidence. Youíd have to ask him that. But I think you just go back to the building blocks: You go back to right footwork, right eye keys, right hand placement, and you do what you do.
Howís he responding?
Fabulous so far. Barry Bonds
, I guess, was in an 0 for 23 slump and he hit two home runs. Athletes, they go through cycles; cornerbacks the same thing. Heís focused, heís ready to go, heís strong, and heís competing for a job.
Was their angst in the coaching staff when he was benched last year? Or were you guys just tired of it and it had to be done?
I think more for him, just let him reflect, see if he could get out of it. When you look at our numbers, everything wasnít that bad. But I think when you look at why are you losing, itís: Should he have made a play? Yeah. Expectations? Yeah. But it wasnít one guy, so I think it got blown out of proportion that it was Ikeís fault. It wasnít his fault. You could go back and say, ĎWell, wait a minute. If they donít have a chance to throw the ball, they donít get in that situation. There are a lot of different factors, but the position he plays, corner, puts him on the spot.
Was the lack of a pass rush a problem for Ike?
Itís tied together. If you can cover, it gives the pass-rusher time to get to the quarterback. If you can get to the quarterback, the cornerback doesnít have to worry. Itís tied together. The run gameís the same thing. If youíre at the top of the run game like weíve been, a lot of people say, ĎWell that front sevenís playing pretty well.í But from my standpoint, those back four are playing excellent because if we miss a tackle theyíre gone. If the guys up front miss a tackle, theyíve got four linebackers and four DBs to help them out. Everythingís tied together. Thatís why itís a team sport. Youíre only as good as your other teammates. But sometimes, the position Ė quarterback and corner Ė is magnified. Theyíre responsible for so many big plays. Itís just the nature of the position and he understands that.
Are you instituting different things now that youíre in charge?
Weíre doing a few things different. Weíre focusing on a little bit more individual details as far as drills and in meetings what weíre looking at, clueing into different things. I like what I see from the guys right now.
How much has Mike helped? Or hurt?
Oh, the more eyes you have the better you are. I canít see everything just like he canít see everything. We havenít changed what weíve been doing, because throughout the years here in Pittsburgh itís worked. Like Mike said, why come in and change something thatís been working for all this time? All weíre trying to do is get better.
What about the cover corner label? Is Ike that man? And could that have been part of the problem, that he was trying to do more?
Youíd have to ask Ike that. But I think what happened is human nature fell into the Pittsburgh Steelers last year. We came off a Super Bowl year and if you asked guys across the board, they would say they didnít play as well I did last year. Now, I know this storyís about Ike, and I feel thatís probably wrong, because it wasnít just Ike. Look across the board and the Pittsburgh Steelers didnít play as well as they did the year before and probably the Pittsburgh Steelers coaches didnít coach as well as they should have last year, so for me it was a human nature thing coming off the Super Bowl, and I think guys are hungry now. I really do.
Posted Jul 25, 2007