View Full Version : Steelers CB Ike Taylor vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson

10-11-2009, 09:19 AM
Head to Head: Steelers CB Ike Taylor vs. Lions WR Calvin Johnson
A closer look at the game within the game
Sunday, October 11, 2009
By Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ike Taylor usually waits until Wednesday to start bugging Coach Mike Tomlin about the possibility of shadowing the other team's top receiver. This time, he didn't even wait that long.

"I went up to him right after the [San Diego] game, and told him," Taylor said.

His request?

Follow Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, just like he did Cincinnati's Chad Ochocinco and the Chargers' Vincent Jackson each of the past two weeks.

Taylor held those two receivers, who have combined for 37 catches, 631 yards and five touchdowns this season, to six catches for 110 yards and no touchdowns. What's more, he had seven pass breakups in those two games, including three on the final series in Cincinnati.

"This is not a criticism of Ike, but one of the biggest things with him is focus," safety Ryan Clark said. "Sometimes he gets bored when he's playing off a receiver and they're not going to throw the ball to him, especially playing the right side. But when he knows that guy is the main target and you have to focus every play, you have to be intense every play, every time he gets that matchup he gets excited. He's not a guy who shies away from a challenge. I think he plays his best when he gets that opportunity."

The tactic of lining Taylor, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound cornerback, against the other team's top receiver is nothing new. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been doing that for years, going all the way back to the 2005 season when he did it for the first time against Ochocinco, who was known as Chad Johnson then.

But he has been doing it with increasing regularity because Taylor has the size and speed to stay with any receiver, whether they are small and quick like Santana Moss or big and fast like Calvin Johnson, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft whom he will try to stop in today's game at Ford Field.

"Ike is a top quality player; he has a desire to be great and his actions match his words in that regard," Tomlin said. "He prepares extremely hard every week. He's as good a practice player as we have. He's always game for those challenges. He comes and asks for those premium matchups. That's what the great ones at that position, the ones who desire to be great at that position, that's the mentality that they have."

Johnson is already one of the top receivers in the NFL, coming off a season in which he had 78 catches, 1,331 yards and 12 touchdowns, tied for first in the league. He also was second in 20-yard receptions (21) and 40-yard receptions (7) and first in 25-yard touchdown receptions (6) -- the very type of big play the Steelers strive to avoid.

Johnson, though, injured his thigh in last week's 48-24 loss at Chicago when he took a helmet shot in the fourth quarter. He was held out of practice on Wednesday and is said to be questionable, but he is expected to play against the Steelers. Before he was injured, the 6-foot-5, 234-pound receiver tortured the Bears with eight catches for 133 yards.

"He's 6-foot-5 and runs a 4.3, a monster," Taylor said. "He's got short-guy quickness. He can burst his first 10 yards like he's Stefan Logan, but he's a long-strider and he gets his stride open fast. On some of the plays that work for him, they run him like a short guy. He's a beast."

A beast Taylor can't wait to try and contain.

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