PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ike Taylor spent a dozen years as a tough-minded fixture at cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a physical presence on the outside that helped the franchise to a pair of Super Bowl wins and an appearance in another.
Given the choice to look for a job elsewhere or retire with only one team on his resume, the 34-year-old just couldn’t envision himself pulling on a different jersey.
Taylor called it a career on Tuesday, the latest departure from a defensive core that served as the backbone of the team’s return to prominence over the past decade.
“I wasn’t cut, I wasn’t released,” Taylor told the team’s web site. “It was just my contract was up and it was time to retire. If you want to have pride, well that is the kind of pride I have, being able to play my contract out.”
Taylor took a pay cut last spring to play one more season for the Steelers. He broke his right forearm in a Week 3 win over Carolina, but returned three months later only to be hurt again in a win over Cincinnati.
He became a free agent in March and rather than take a chance and hope he had enough left to make the team somewhere else, Taylor decided to join longtime teammate Troy Polamalu in retirement. Polamalu called it a career last week after eight Pro Bowls and four first-team All-Pro selections.
“We came in together, we were going out together,” Taylor said. “That is how we rock. We came in, we are leaving together. That is my loyalty to that man. I said once Troy does his, I will decide. That is what I owe to Troy.”
In Super Bowl XL, Ike Taylor intercepts a pass in front of Seahawks WR Darrel Jackson.
Taylor never came close to attaining Polamalu’s individual accolades. He started 140 games but only came up with 14 regular season interceptions and three more in the playoffs.
When he dropped a sure pick during training camp in 2013, coach Mike Tomlin jokingly yelled “that’s why you’re Pro Bowl alternate and not Pro Bowl starter.”
The ever ebullient Taylor laughed, part of an engaging personality that made him a favorite in the locker room and a cult hero among one of the NFL’s most ardent fan bases.
He served as the unquestioned leader of a group in transition over the past three years, taking youngsters such as Cortez Allen and Antwon Blake under his wing even though he knew they would eventually replace him.
Taylor’s exit is the latest during an offseason of significant change. Polamalu, defensive end Brett Keisel and Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau won’t be back next season. Keisel was cut in March and LeBeau did not have his contract renewed. Linebacker Jason Worilds also abruptly retired at 27 just hours after hitting the free agent market.
“I’m going to miss all of it,” Taylor said. “I will miss the camaraderie, the personalities. Different people from different walks of life, all in one setting, having the same goal trying to be the best. It’s not like that in the regular world, but it was like that with the Steelers.”
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