If there was any question that the presence of Ike Taylor makes the Steelers Cornerbacks a better unit, it should be answered after having watch the Steelers get taken apart by Philip Rivers and the hapless Chargers.
Taylor certainly had his share of struggles early in the season, giving up big plays and being tagged for pass interference penalties. In the last 6 weeks though he’s picked up his game and become the stabilizing force that Steelers fans have come to know and love over the years. As the saying goes though, “you don’t know what you got till it’s gone”.
Without Taylor in the lineup last Sunday, San Diego immediately went after the Steelers young Corners, Cortez Allen and Curtis Brown on a regular basis and each took the brunt of the damage done by the Chargers passing game.
As reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review: “Brown allowed four first-down catches — two to Michael Spurlock and two to Danario Alexander — in his 26 snaps. Overall, Brown was targeted six times and allowed six catches for 84 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown pass to Alexander late in the first half before getting benched in the fourth quarter for Josh Victorian, who later gave up a touchdown.
But Brown wasn’t the only one who struggled replacing Taylor.
Cortez Allen, who got the start at right cornerback but moved to the slot in the nickel, was targeted seven times, giving up six catches for 46 yards, including three third-down conversions.
Most of Rivers’ success on third downs came on the same route: the out pattern. Of Rivers’ 41 attempts, 14 were out patterns, seven of which resulted in first downs. Rivers finished 9 of 14 for 67 yards when he targeted an out-cutting receiver.”
Every player goes through growing pains on the field, and just because you have one good day at the office or even a few good days at the office previously, doesn’t mean you are immune to getting your tail handed to you.
Two weeks ago against the Ravens, Cortez Allen started out strong covering both Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. After being flagged for pass interference and giving up a touchdown to Boldin though he was able to recover and have a solid game in the 2nd half. As a cornerback you need to have a short memory, and that ability to do so will be tested again as the Steelers head on the road to Dallas.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense will certainly look at the San Diego game plan and how they attacked the Steelers through the air. If Pittsburgh wants to win this game, the play of both Allen and Brown will be key to that success.
Update: as of Mike Tomlin’s noon press conference, Cortez Allen has a hip flexor and will be limited this week in practice. There is a chance he could miss the game on Sunday in Dallas. Josh Victorian and Curtis Brown will get significant work this week at Cornerback, along with Demarcus Van Dyke.