By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Ike Taylor feels that he’s picked on, and not just by opposing quarterbacks and receivers. The veteran cornerback complained that the local news media do not defend the Steelers, even when they cannot sometimes defend themselves on the field. He also says the media picks and chooses their statistics to make their points.
“I always felt like, you know, if we’re in the same city, regardless what’s going on with the team, why can’t we just be family? Why can’t we just point out the facts? Why does one individual have to be pointed out?”
Included in the so-called non-supporters in the new media would be his former coach, Bill Cowher, who Sunday had some critical things to say about Taylor on The NFL Today on CBS, not to mention his own coach, Mike Tomlin.
Cowher said this first about the Steelers defense: “I think they have a situation where all three losses, they lost fourth-quarter leads. They are struggling right now on defense.”
He then offered what he thought was the biggest problem for the Steelers defense through five games.
“I will say the number one player is Ike Taylor,” Cowher said. “He’s given up seven penalties, four touchdowns, he’s been targeted 44 times, and Ike is not playing his best football. What Dick [LeBeau] will have to do is protect him with a safety over the top.”
Then there was Tomlin’s comment about Taylor during his news conference Tuesday.
“He needs to get back to playing good, sound football,” said Tomlin, whose perception of Taylor’s performance surely was not formed by listening to local sports talk shows.
Taylor offered statistics to make his point that the Steelers defense is not playing as poorly as some of their critics might say.
“The stats are the stats,” said Taylor, who repeated his assertions in the locker room Wednesday that he first made on his radio show Tuesday. “Y’all look at numbers, y’all throw numbers out, the numbers don’t lie. And, if you want to go by numbers, we’re not doing as bad as what they say we’re doing.”
The Steelers rank fifth in fewest yards allowed as a defense (295.8), fourth vs. the pass (200.8) and 10th vs. the run (95). But they are in the second division in the NFL, tied for 17th in points against them, allowing an average of 23 per game. Only one team has fewer than their two interceptions: the Dallas Cowboys, with one.
“Of course, that’s not acceptable,” Taylor said. “But the stats are the stats, and like I say, it depends on who you’re talking to and what category.”
Taylor’s point was the media makes a big deal out of the points scored against the Steelers and not how few yards they’ve allowed.
He also expects Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green to target him Sunday night.
“Why wouldn’t you?” Taylor said. “They’re going to try me. I have 10 years of tape. Of course, I got to know going into the game that’s going to happen. What I got to do is just hold it down.
“A.J. Green is probably one of the best receivers the NFL has going. Young and talented, also with the quarterback they have.”
Green is third in the NFL with an average of 104.7 receiving yards per game and leads the AFC with six touchdown catches. Dalton is fifth in the league with 1,726 yards passing, although he has thrown nine interceptions.
As for stats on the Steelers cornerbacks? No interceptions, and, in a ranking of 100 cornerbacks off their play in 2012, Pro Football Focus lists Taylor 96th and Keenan Lewis 91st.
Linebacker LaMarr Woodley was not nearly as impressed with his defense’s play, and he said so when he was asked what they must do to beat the Bengals.
“First, we have to go out there and stop the run in order to force them to do some passing. This whole year we haven’t been forcing teams to do anything, we’ve allowed them to run the ball and pass the ball on us.”
Woodley looked stunned when he was told the defense ranks fifth in average yards allowed. He said the defense isn’t playing to that ranking.
“No, it’s horrible. Our record after five and the way we’ve been playing! We could easily be 4-1 right now, how we lost the last two games. As a defense, we can’t allow teams to put that many points on the board against us, and that’s what we’ve been doing lately. We’ve given up big plays here and there; when we give up big plays, they capitalize on it, and that’s what’s been hurting us.”
As safety Ryan Clark noted earlier this week, they have not capitalized on things such as the dropped interception by Lewis that likely would have won their game in Tennessee last Thursday had he held on. Taylor also let a pass whiz through his hands for a Kenny Britt touchdown in that game.
“It’s just slipping away from us,” Woodley said. “Certain things, we have an opportunity and we’re not taking advantage of it. Keenan had the chance to get the ball, he just didn’t get it. He probably can’t say the reason for not catching the ball. We allowed a big run during the Raiders game — we just got out of position, and they capitalized on it.”
If the Steelers are to avoid two losses in a row for the first time in 41 games, they may have to do it with a rash of players on the sideline.
Troy Polamalu, linebacker Chris Carter and offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert have been declared out already by Tomlin. Those in the questionable category missed practice for the second time this week: halfback Rashard Mendenhall and center Maurkice Pouncey, both starters, along with No. 2 halfback Isaac Redman.
Add linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who sat out Wednesday with a foot injury that wasn’t mentioned Tuesday by Tomlin.