LATROBE – When cornerback Anthony Henry was given a $10 million bonus to sign for five years with the Dallas Cowboys, Ike Taylor took notice.
And when cornerback Brian Williams was given the same bonus to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Taylor took notice.
Taylor also noticed the $13.5 million bonus paid last week to Quentin Jammer, because Jammer’s stats in 2005 were quite similar to Taylor’s.
“Yeah, I notice it,” Taylor said. “The guys talk about it: ‘This guy got 13 million. This guy got 14.’ But you’ve got to be real patient.”
Taylor has one year left on his contract and his agent, Scott Smith, is talking to the Pittsburgh Steelers about an extension. It’s an improvement from the stalemate Smith talked about at the start of training camp.
“I just know they’re talking, but I don’t know what they’re talking about,” Taylor said. “As long as they’re talking, as long as the ball keeps rolling, they don’t have to tell me anything. As long as I know they’re talking, it’s cool.”
Taylor says that while he’s paid attention to what other young cornerbacks are pulling in, he has no need to hear the numbers being bandied about this week because he just wants to play football.
“If you’ve got something good, and you’re talking, great. But, shoot, we’ve got to get back to the Super Bowl. That’s what I want to do.”
Last spring, Taylor promised fans he’d remain with the Steelers for a long time, but it’s unlikely the Steelers will pay him the going rate. Only last year they hammered out a deal with three-time team MVP Hines Ward that included $10 million in bonus money over two years. Taylor realizes that, while the salary cap has expanded with the recent CBA negotiations, the Steelers will not wreck their salary structure, particularly with big-ticket players such as Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger due for renegotiation within the next few years. Taylor said he understands the Steeler way.
“I don’t care who you are, or how good you are, you’re not going to bust the Steelers,” he said. “You might be the best player with the best agent, but if the Steelers think you’re worth a certain number, they’re not going to budge. I respect that. I respect them. That’s why I want to stay here.”
Does Taylor’s agent know this?
“I told him that the first day,” Taylor said. “He knows.”
But Smith plows on. He has until Sept. 7 to negotiate for as much as he can. Once the regular season begins the negotiations will break off and both sides will wait until February to resume talks. By then, the rest of the league will know more about Taylor, the terrific one-year starter. But Taylor said it doesn’t matter what the rest of the league learns this season.
“I’ll be here,” he said Monday. “I will be here. I will be here. I’ll put a stamp on it: I’ll be here. We’ll definitely get something worked out.”
With that, Taylor left for the practice field; his contract talks the furthest thing from his mind. Some might be wondering if that was the case during Saturday’s game. In the preseason opener, Taylor surrendered a handful of receptions while playing off coverage. He said that while his coverages were called from the sideline, he still only rated his play a six out of 10.
“I can be tighter in my coverages. I can get more physical. I can work better with the rest of the defense,” he said.
He also said the ongoing negotiations aren’t putting additional pressure on him to perform.
“You can’t think about contracts when you’re playing football,” he said. “You’ve got to just play football. I didn’t think about contract the other two or three years. Why now?
“Coach says just let the chips fall and that’s what I’m doing, just letting the chips fall. I’m really not worrying about it. I’m really not. It’s going to happen. I’m just glad to be around these guys. These are good guys: old guys, young guys, a lot of competition. That’s what I like about this team.”