“I don’t want my name on the back of somebody else’s jersey. My name belongs on a Steelers jersey. I want my name to represent the Pittsburgh Steelers.” – Ike Taylor, March, 2014
It was a little over a year ago when Ike Taylor did what isn’t easy for athletes to do. He took a pay cut so that he could finish out the final year on his Steelers contract, his 12th season in the black and gold. At the time, money wasn’t the issue for him. Staying with the Steelers was.
“Other than having my son, playing for the Steelers has been the best experience in my entire lifetime,” said Taylor. “It is rare, in this day of free agency that is super rare to play for one team. For me to have this opportunity says a lot about how they felt about me, what I gave back to the organization.
“I wasn’t cut, I wasn’t released. 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, who was an unrestricted free agent, knew in his heart while he still loves the game, playing elsewhere just wouldn’t have been right.
“From the time I walked in the door until the time I left, this is where I wanted to be,” said Taylor. “How the organization is, the locker room, you see why we win. When I became a free agent twice it made my decision easy.
“The Steelers speak for themselves. When you talk about the Steelers, you talk about success. You talk about Pittsburgh, the first thing people talk about is the Steelers. There has been pride since the 1970s and we were able to recreate that pride in the 2000s. We went to three Super Bowls and won two. I thought that was the way it was supposed to be. We were loving each other and having so much fun in that locker room.”
Taylor, who broke into the starting lineup for the Steelers his third season, started 140 of the 174 games he played. He finished his career with 648 tackles, three sacks, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He had 14 career interceptions, a number he is the first to admit would have been higher if it weren’t for his hands and the ‘oh so close’ interceptions he didn’t hold on to.
Taylor was the consummate professional throughout his career, working like a fiend during the offseason to be in shape, never slacking and always wearing his love for the Steelers on his sleeve. He had the utmost respect for the organization, loved the history of the team, and in turn earned respect back.
“We could go on for countless hours talking about the 1970s and how we looked up to these guys,” said Taylor. “Wearing the black and gold, it means a lot. It means a whole lot. People play outside of their bodies for the black and gold. So called handsome guys become tough guys for the black and gold. You do things you never thought you could do when you put on the black and gold. You had that black and gold on and you wanted to be at work.
“Playing for Pittsburgh, I could go on for days sharing what it did for my life, not just my career. It opened so many doors for me, meant so much to me.”
“What will always stand out about playing here for me, is sleeping in Mr. Rooney’s office when I was tired one day,” recalled Taylor. “He asked his son (Steelers President Art Rooney II) to leave so I could rest. Who does that? Nobody does that. Not a Hall of Fame owner. But he did. That is where I get some of my personality from, because a guy like that, in the Hall of Fame, is so humble.”
It’s no coincidence that Taylor decided to announce his retirement just days after Troy Polamalu retired. The two were members of the same Steelers 2003 Draft Class, Polamalu selected in the first round, Taylor in the fourth round. They have shared a bond since day one, and Polamalu and his wife Theodora are named as guardians for Taylor’s son Ivan if anything ever happened to him or Ivan’s mother Danielle.
“We came in together, we were going out together,” said Taylor. “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.”
Taylor said he still plans on remaining close with those in the organization, even plans on helping the defensive coaching staff during team OTAs in late May. Because for him, black and gold will always run through his blood.
“I can’t explain it, what the Steelers have meant,” said Taylor. “I understand the business. But they gave me loyalty. They let me play my whole contract out.
“I'm going to miss all of it. 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.”