Recently, I had the privilege of sitting down for an interview with former long-time NFL cornerback and two-time Super Bowl champion, Ike Taylor. During our half-hour session together, Taylor addressed nearly two dozen questions on a variety of topics and talked about his current role as NFL scout for the team in which he dedicated 12 years of his life: the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Taylor expressed how scouting is something that he always wanted to do. "I was just always interested in that part," Taylor said. "I always thought I always had an eye [for scouting]. I thought I always had great evaluation, and Pittsburgh wound up putting me on board last year, so I'm so fortunate with that."
Taylor's relationship with Joey Porter Jr.
While Taylor may be relatively new to the NFL scouting business, the 12-year veteran can recognize talent at the cornerback position. Taylor had plenty to talk about on the subject of Joey Porter Jr., beginning with seeing him as a very young boy around the Steelers facility.
"[Porter] was just a kid, a ball boy, born and raised in the city of Pittsburgh; the 412. A natural-born Yinzer, so to say," Taylor explains. "[He] understood what it is to be Pittsburgh Steeler. Been to the playoffs with his dad, been in the locker room with us, been to training camps with us, been to the Super Bowl with us. He just gets, by nature, off of default -- because he was born and raised at the time when we were winning championships and going to Super Bowls -- what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler."
Ike knows that Porter Jr. has the winning mentality that it takes to be a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers (just like he did). But Taylor isn't so big on NFL player comparisons. When asked if Ike Taylor was a fair player comparison for Joey Porter Jr., the answer was 'no'.
"I don't like when we do that," Taylor said in response to comparing Porter Jr. to himself. "As far as comparisons, Joey Porter Jr. is going to be his own man. As far as that twenty-four jersey, I'm not a Troy Polamalu or 'Mean' Joe Greene, so I was just leasing. As far as my blessing, he's the one who told me that he wanted it... At the time he didn't know me know me, but he knew me off of the conversations, in my mind, that his dad was having about good old Ike Taylor."
Ike Taylor reminisces about his playing days
After taking some time to talk about Joey Porter Jr., Taylor reminisced about his playing days with the Steelers. Taylor spoke on the importance of attitude and 'swagger' at the cornerback position.
"The window of error when it comes down to playing corner is very slim, just like the window of error playing corner in the NFL is slight to none," Taylor said during the interview. "So for me, my attitude is always going to be a dog. For me, that was being aggressive. When I did finally understand when I did have a bad play, let it go because they need me for the next one. But for me, man, it was 'I don't give a what' attitude and my back a was was against the wall. That was my mindset. It was pretty much 'F' everybody except for guys wearing black and gold."
Our conversation led us back even before Taylor's playing days, as we talked about his time at Louisiana Lafayette and transitioning from a running back to a cornerback. We also talked about his 40-yard dash time, and how there are very few testing numbers out there from him. Ike assured us that he was blazing fast coming out of college.
"My best time was like a 4.29. My best time. And that was hand-clocked," Taylor insisted. "My average time was in the 4.3s... Genetically, God had given me speed. Then I had to use, like Coach [Tomlin] would like to say, 'from the neck up.' You just had to use your football IQ. Speed definitely wasn't the issue until I got older in the NFL. Yeah, 4.29 was my fastest, but I stayed in the 4.3s."
Taylor praises Troy Polamalu
In addition to discussing his playing career, Taylor got on the subject of Troy Polamalu. As you can imagine, Taylor couldn't say enough kind things about his former teammate and current Hall of Fame safety.
"Man, I said all the time, God blessed me with a few angels in my life... Now Troy [Polamalu] dropped into my life. So Troy is just different. He's just a different human being. He's rare. Guys like him don't come around too often who's walking this earth."
Taylor continued his praise for Polamalu, "Troy blessed me with a lot of grace. Even though I'm older than Troy, I always tell Troy that there's a lot of different categories that I look up to him. I look up to him by the way he carries himself and what he is as a man, a person, a Christian, and a husband. The football part-wise was easy. As soon as I saw Troy, I knew he was a Hall of Famer. He was different."
Based on the praise Taylor gave Polamalu during our chat together, I wasn't surprised to hear his response when I asked him who was the best teammate he's ever played football with.
"It's Troy, hands down," exclaimed Taylor. "I had all live access, front row seats, in-court games. Just watching this dude making plays after plays after plays after plays. Mr. 'I need a play.' Mr. 'Clutch Moments'. Mr. 'Let's seal the deal'. Mr. 'Troy, we need your help.' Troy pretty much carried, instinctively, that defense. I'm talking about plays."
"I'm talking over twenty games where pretty much everybody on that defensive side at one point in time was like, 'Troy, we need you to make a play for us." Taylor continued, "Troy, by far, and I did play with some Hall of Famers. But Troy by far, in my mind, was definitely different and special."
Taylor shares his thoughts on the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers
After talking about the brotherhood and relationship he had with Polamalu and his former teammates, we shifted gears to talk about the state of the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers. Taylor talked about the impressive 2023 draft class and expanded on players like Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and T.J. Watt.
Taylor also talked about the current group of cornerbacks on the roster. While this is an older group, Taylor doesn't foresee age or lack of speed at the position as an issue to be concerned about.
"There's a difference between training to run fast and actually playing fast on the field. But the guys that we got on the field now, other than our young guys, they are very instinctive. They got a lot of experience when it comes down to that cornerback position, and you can't put a time on that experience. It's a lot of good anticipation. There's a lot of guys in that secondary who's not a rookie or second-year guy who has made a lot of plays and played a lot of snaps for the NFL. They just so happen to be a Pittsburgh Steeler now."
Ike went on to share his thoughts on key players this year like Kenny Pickett, George Pickens, and T.J. Watt. I wrapped up our chat by asking him about his expectations for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2023.
"Finish on a good note," he said. "I'm gonna go political on you. We're gonna finish on a good note, 'T'."
Taylor declined when asked to give a record prediction for the Steelers this year. You can watch the whole 33-minute interview with Ike Taylor on the Still Curtain YouTube channel or listen to it wherever you get your podcasts.