This has certainly been a memorable off-season for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Not sure it’s been a *good* off-season but it’s certainly been memorable.
It started when long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was gently but unmistakably booted down to Tennessee. Free agent to be linebacker Jason Worilds then became the first – and most improbable – Steeler to announce his retirement. Troy Polamalu recently followed in an announcement that was far less shocking than it was bittersweet. And now the Black and Gold have lost their Swag.
Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor has retired after 12 seasons in the NFL. Yep, he was drafted the same year as Troy and evidently his longtime secondary partner’s decision influenced his own. “We came in together so I wanted to leave together,” he said in a interview for ProFootballTalk. Not that he was expected to be in Pittsburgh come training camp regardless.
Ike’s play dropped off markedly last season, even before he broke his arm against Carolina. The Steelers depth chart is really ugly right now – Cortez Allen, William Gay, and Antwon Blake are your current top three with youngster BW Webb and what everybody expects to be a premium round draft pick as wild cards – yet the team had no intention of bringing Taylor back. In this age of constant player movement, it’s kind of nice that both Ike and Troy were drafted by the Steelers, played their entire careers in Pittsburgh, and finally retired together as Steelers. Even though both probably stayed a year or two past their expiration dates.
Taylor’s retirement marks the end for one of the most debatable players in Steeler history. Fans were long split on his abilities as some would focus on his habit of routinely shutting down the most elite wide receivers in the game while others were continually frustrated by his legendarily bad hands. A longtime starter for two Super Bowl championship teams, Ike nonetheless has zero Pro Bowls on his resume almost entirely due to his stone mitts. These things tend to get exaggerated by passionate fanbases but in this case, all you need look at is the fact he leaves with 14 total interceptions in 12 seasons to know his ball skills were…not so good.
While he may not be joining Troy in Canton, Ike will still be remembered as a stalwart on defense and one of the most colorful characters from our most recent glory period. Most of all, I’ll remember Ike for the odd yet genuine relationship he shared with Steelers patriarch Dan Rooney. The picture above was his Twitter avatar for a long time and if you look at last year’s team photo, you’ll see Ike next to Mr. Rooney, a move done on purpose as he knew this was likely his final year in Pittsburgh. I don’t blame the Steelers for avoiding Hard Knocks like the plague but if there was one big missed opportunity of the last ten years it’s that we never got to see the Ike and Mr. Rooney Show.
Seems like I’ve been typing this a lot this year but thanks for the memories, Ike. Somebody may take your place but nobody will ever replace your Swag.