Just when the Steelers got back Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu, they will lose their best cornerback for possibly the rest of the regular season.
The Steelers were able to become the NFL's top-ranked pass defense in Polamalu's absence. Maintaining that level of excellence goes beyond the play of Taylor's replacement, Cortez Allen.
No one can expect Allen to be Taylor, although he may have better ball skills. For the Steelers to contain the last four quarterbacks on the schedule -- Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Andy Dalton and Brandon Weeden -- they need to get the same pass rush they got against the Ravens. If teams attack Allen as the Ravens did, they will test him deep. Allen was beaten for a 28-yard touchdown and was flagged for a 30-yard pass interference penalty in the end zone.
"During the course of the game, I had some ups and downs," Allen said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
The best way for the Steelers to counter those deep passing attacks is putting pressure and decreasing time in the pocket for quarterbacks. That starts with linebacker James Harrison, who is starting to round into shape and look like the pass-rusher from recent seasons. He has recorded a sack in three straight games and made the game-changing strip of Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter.
The loss of Taylor will be tough on the Steelers, especially during their playoff run. Taylor rebounded strongly from a shaky start and could be counted on to shadow the best receiver on the field. But the Steelers have overcome the absence of Harrison, Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley. They'll just need all phases of the pass defense to step up to fill that void.