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Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Who Might The Steelers X-Factor Be Vs. The Raiders?

Sep 8, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor (24) forces Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington (85) out of bounds after Washington caught a pass for a first down during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Tennessee Titans won 16-9. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

While the NFL continues to evolve every day, with ideas such as the read option, one thing has been constant: the play of cornerback Ike Taylor. In 11 years of playing in the NFL, Taylor has become one of the best kept secrets in the league.

Taylor may not have Pro bowl or All-Pro recognition, but the numbers speak for themselves. Just looking at the 2013 season up till week 7, here are the statistics of the opposing number one wide-receivers:

Nate Washington: 4 receptions on 7 targets for 46 yards with 0 touchdowns

A.J. Green- 6 receptions on 15 targets for 41 yards with 0 touchdowns

Brandon Marshall- 5 receptions on 8 targets for 52 yards with 0 touchdowns

Jerome Simpson- 7 receptions on 11 targets for 124 yards with 0 touchdowns

Stephen Hill- 3 receptions on 8 targets for 46 yards for 46 yards with 0 touchdowns

Torrey Smith- 3 receptions on 6 targets for 61 yards with 0 touchdowns

Old and slow Warren Sapp? The numbers don’t seem to support that Ike Taylor, at age 33, fits the “old and slow” mold. While he wasn’t covering these receivers all the time, they were his main responsibilities.

Thanks to Ike Taylor’s poor hands, with only 14 interceptions over his 11-year career, he may just be the best kept secret that only Steelers fans, and players of other teams know about.

Many will point to players such as Darren McFadden and Terrelle Pryor as the most potent weapon on the offense, which is an extremely valid argument, but in the end, one guy that has started to play at higher level is wideout  Denarius Moore. Over the past six games, Moore has caught 25 passes for 399 yards for 4 touchdowns. While these are not elite numbers, Denarius Moore could be the player that makes the difference for the Raiders offense come Sunday in the Black Hole.

Lucky for the Steelers, they have a man in Ike Taylor that has the ability to make Denarius Moore invisible Sunday afternoon. With Taylor likely following Moore around the field like most of the number one wideouts the Steelers face, the Steelers can focus on stopping the rushing ability of Darren McFadden and Terrelle Pryor, as well as Marcel Reece, and they can dial up more blitz packages.

If a team is unable to stop Denarius Moore, it makes it much more difficult to stop the Raiders offense because you can’t focus on just the running threat that the Raiders present.

With Ike Taylor restructuring his contract this past week, it appears Taylor will continue to be a Steeler for at least one more year. As Taylor has shown this season, there is no reason to believe he won’t continue to shut-down opposing receivers, becoming the Steeler’s X-factor.

 

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