Ike must stop hostile takeover

PITTSBURGH – Ike Taylor spent last week in nervous anticipation of covering a player he respects enough to call "Mister."

But on the first play of the game, Taylor looked past Mr. Marvin Harrison and into the Indianapolis Colts' backfield. Eighty yards later they led the Steelers, 7-0, on their way to a 26-7 win.

"That's just me being aggressive," said Taylor.

And the rest of the game Taylor did a fine job on Harrison, who finished with four catches for 128 yards.

"I was locked down on him half the time," said Taylor, who, in spite of the mental lapse, is evolving into the Steelers' top corner in his first season as a starter.

On Sunday, Taylor will spend much of his time covering Chad Johnson, the star receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals.

In the first meeting between the teams, Taylor, because of injuries, was asked to cover Johnson man-to-man most of the game, and Taylor did the job. He kept Johnson out of the end zone and held him to four catches for 94 yards. Johnson was held to fewer catches only one time this season, when he caught three passes in Week 3 against the Chicago Bears.

Taylor played so well against Johnson that the boastful Johnson praised him after the game. Yesterday, he did it again.

"I can't wait," Johnson said of the rematch. "Ike is now, like I said last time when the game ended, one of the best cover corners in the league. Anytime a coach has the trust to put a defensive back on an island with one of the best receivers in the league, that puts him in a category of his own. I said it last time and I'm going to stick with it. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

And he's got plans. Big plans.

Prior to the first meeting between the teams, Johnson asked reporters for a clever routine to perform if he scored a touchdown. And he did score one – momentarily -- and Johnson came up with a silly Betty Boop-style walk-dance. But instant replay overturned the call and rendered the routine moot.

This time, though, Johnson's excited. He even pulled a Terrible Towel out of his locker last Sunday after the Bengals beat the Baltimore Ravens and twirled it for reporters. He inferred he would do the same Sunday at Heinz Field if he scores.

"That would be a nice celebration, wouldn't it?" Johnson said.

Taylor doesn't think so.

"I wouldn't appreciate that, but that's Chad," Taylor said. "He's always got a few tricks up his sleeve. If we can keep him out of the end zone, we won't have to see that Terrible Towel."

But Johnson might just be teasing about twirling the towel. He has something else planned.

"I can't clue you in," he said. "But you will enjoy it. Let me see, Pittsburgh is the Steel City, right? OK, I've got something good. I've got something very good. You are going to like it."

The fans won't. They've watched their Steelers lose consecutive games to fall behind the Bengals by a game in the AFC North Division. Sunday's game will likely determine the division champion, since the Steelers would hold the 2-0 tiebreaker edge in head-to-head meetings.

The Steelers beat the Bengals, 27-13, in Cincinnati on Oct. 23. Johnson, though, said the Bengals are a different team now.

"We're a lot better offensively," he said. "[We are] a lot more crisp, a lot more sound in some of the things we do. We're a little more comfortable in knowing what looks we're going to see from Pittsburgh this week. We can game plan a little better for the second go-around."

The same can be said of the Steelers, of course, and particularly Taylor, who's coming off an embarrassing play against Harrison -- one that enlightened the cornerback and forced him to play with an attitude the remainder of the game.

Taylor believes that attitude will carry over to Sunday's game since Johnson has the potential to embarrass him the same way Harrison did.

"That's the attitude you've got to have playing corner," Taylor said. "My manhood was at stake on that field, and me getting beat added more to it. It's mano a mano out there; may the best man win."


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