Ike Taylor: Steelers still have swagger

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers have yet to force a turnover, have sacked opposing quarterbacks just four times and allowed Matt Cassel to throw them for a loop the last time they played.

Who better to ask if the Steelers’ defense has retained its swagger despite a humbling start to the season than veteran cornerback Ike Taylor?

Taylor, after all, founded the clothing line “Swaggin University,” and his Twitter handle is @Ike_SwagginU.

The guy as qualified as anyone to talk about the psyche of the defense because of his stellar play as much as his persona said the Steelers will take plenty of swagger into their Week 6 game against the upstart New York Jets.

“That’s just the mentality you’ve got to have playing defense,” Taylor said. “When you walk (upstairs at Steelers’ headquarters) and see them six (Lombardi) trophies that just comes natural. It comes with the territory.”

The Steelers’ defense is in unfamiliar territory but Taylor is one of the few that can’t be fingered for the unit’s significant drop-off from past seasons.

The 11th-year veteran is still playing at a high level as he showed earlier this season by blanketing A.J. Green and Brandon Marshall in back-to-back weeks. Taylor, 33, is one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL, and imagine how many Pro Bowls he would have made if he had come up with more interceptions like the one that eluded him in the Steelers’ Sept. 29 loss to the Vikings.

Taylor put himself in perfect position to intercept a Cassel pass in the end zone, but Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson chopped the ball out of hands. Taylor made one thing clear last week: the Steelers didn’t miss out on their first turnover of the season because of one of his trademark drops.

“Of course I had it,” Taylor said. “He made a great defensive play. He made that play better than a cornerback.”

Not that Taylor has any illusion about why he has only 14 career interceptions.

He has hands, well let’s just say they aren’t the kind you find on a wide receiver, and he has tried everything to improve his ball-catching skills.

That includes catching bricks, something Taylor did during several offseasons.

“It’s 11 years later and I’m still working on that,” Taylor said of his hands. “I critique myself just as much as you all want to critique me. That’s what makes me, me. Everybody can’t do that. You have your strengths and weaknesses as a reporter but do you want to fess up to them? I fess up to mine so that’s the difference. Obviously those bricks didn’t help but man I’ve been successful. Two Super Bowls (wins) 11 years in the league. Three contracts later I can’t complain.”

Taylor is clearly comfortable in his own pads and who he is as a player, and he is still full of plenty of swagger.

Do the rest of his teammates on defense feel the same way?

“I would agree with Ike,” Troy Polamalu said.

But the Steelers’ strong safety added this caveat: “If attitude won the game we’d go get a lot of cheerleaders. We’ve also got to perform and execute and we haven’t executed well.”