PITTSBURGH -- Ike Taylor missed most of the spring last year, his final one as a player, and it opened the door for Antwon Blake to learn the cornerback position and become one of the Pittsburgh Steelers' key finds prior to the 2014 season.
Now retired, Taylor's been helping out the team as an assistant coach this spring and he sees another possible sleeper in the secondary in No. 30, Kevin Fogg.
"Right now, (Fogg)'s been the most consistent," Taylor said. "He's been very consistent and he's been getting better, and that doesn't do anything but help the secondary when you can have depth."
Fogg, or "Two-G" as Mike Tomlin dubbed him, is a "one," or a rookie with a training camp already on his resume. Fogg was signed out of Liberty College by the Miami Dolphins on this day one year ago. He performed so well in training camp that he played in three preseason games before he was cut. He signed with the Brooklyn Bolts of the FXFL and was named the new league's Special Teams MVP. But that got him only two tryouts, and he signed with the practice squad of one of those teams, the Steelers, early last December.
This spring, Fogg has been one of the defense's top playmakers. To wit:
* In the first week of work Fogg nearly made a spectacular diving interception of a Ben Roethlisberger pass that elicited a surprising amount of praise and respect from his teammates.
* In the second week, a series after running deep with Antonio Brown to break up a Roethlisberger bomb, Fogg intercepted Roethlisberger by reading Martavis Bryant's curl route and curling a bit sooner. Fogg ran the interception back for a touchdown, again to much fanfare.
* In the third week, on the last rep of two-point conversion work, Fogg went high to intercept a fade pass. It not only sparked the defense as the horn sounded to begin the next period, it sent Steelers Nation Radio man Craig Wolfley running out from behind his booth to ask, "Was that Two-G?"
Yes it was, as the hoots and hollers of Fogg's defensive teammates would answer.
"Coach Tomlin gave me a pretty cool nickname," Fogg said of his apparent popularity. "And I think everybody likes saying Fogg."
Fogg grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, but wasn't highly recruited. Only the small local colleges showed interest in the 5-9 1/2 running back.
Being a spiritual young man, Fogg chose Liberty College, where he played in all 11 games as a freshman cornerback before becoming a starter and primary return man his sophomore season. Fogg led the nation in kick-return average (33.5) as a junior, but he missed the 2012 season with a broken foot. He returned in 2013 to intercept four passes on his way to being named first team All-Big South cornerback.
Fogg's injury may have been one reason he wasn't drafted, but he called the injury the turning point of his spiritual journey.
"I had a spiritual mindset before that, but it wasn't where I am today," Fogg said. "That helped me to humble myself quick. I wouldn't say I was cocky in any type of way, but I was looking toward the future too much. It just helped me take it one day at a time, trust God, have faith and enjoy the process."
Before he steps off the field at the end of practices, Fogg kneels at the sideline to give thanks for yet another day in the life, another step in the process.
"Take one day at a time in your spiritual life, your social life, on the field, all areas of your life," he said. "It's been awesome how God has brought me here and what He's taken me through. He's receiving all the glory for it. If nothing else transpires from here, I'm good with that."
If that sounds a bit like Troy Polamalu, Fogg is aware, just as he's aware he's been given one of Polamalu's two corner spaces he used in the locker room.
"It's a blessing," Fogg said in a somewhat startling and unwitting imitation of what the great Polamalu likely would have said.
But the topic on this day was about the two passes -- that were behind him -- which Fogg merely broke up instead of intercepting.
"Are we going to talk about that?" Fogg said with a laugh. "Are we really going to talk about that?"
His "dang-it" reaction on the field to the near picks showed just how quickly Fogg's expectations have risen.
"You have to have those expectations," he said. "We're preaching get our hands on the balls. When we do and actually capitalize and catch it and turn it into something, that's a great play instead of just a mediocre play.
"It was frustrating, but I beat myself up over little things like that. It'll help me get better as a person and as a player."
Has his spring gone as well as he could have expected?
"Yes, sir, I could say that," Fogg said. "God has definitely done a great work. He's opened up my eyes to see some things that He's given me the ability to do. But it's just all in competition. I love to compete. I feel like it's one of the things that helps me get better. The other man across from me is just as good so we're working each and every day just to make each other better, and that's what it's really about."