The following is another in a series that picks a Steelers All-Modern Era Team. Players were considered based on having careers with the Steelers from 1992 until the present. The All-Modern Era team is made up of 26 players – 11 on offense, 11 on defense, and four specialists.
One of them is in the Hall of Fame, with a significant part of his resume being the 71 interceptions he recorded during his career. The other one never was fully appreciated because of the interceptions he didn't record during his career.
Rod Woodson and Ike Taylor had to take different paths to get to the NFL, they were vastly different as players, and while Woodson left the Steelers as an unrestricted free agent following the 1996 season, Taylor took a pay cut before the 2014 season in order to stay.
But all of their differences aside, Woodson and Taylor are the best cornerbacks of the Steelers' Modern Era.
Following his senior season at Purdue, Woodson was so highly rated that Chuck Noll told then defensive coordinator Tony Dungy not to waste time on him because he was certain Woodson would be picked before the Steelers' turn came at 10th overall in the 1987 NFL Draft. But thanks to some draft-day stupidity by the Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Cardinals, Woodson was available when the Steelers' turn came in the first round, and then they wasted even less time than Noll originally had in mind in making him their No. 1 pick.
Check out the greatest photos of Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Rod Woodson.
One of only five active players selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994, Woodson was a five-time first-team All-Pro cornerback during his career in Pittsburgh, and he even put together a three-season streak by being selected in 1992-93-94. In 1993 Woodson was voted the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, and in the opener that season he turned in a vintage performance.
The game was against the San Francisco 49ers at Three Rivers Stadium, and Woodson was matched up all afternoon vs. Jerry Rice, then at the height of his physical prowess. Rice ended up with eight catches for 78 yards, including touchdowns of 5 and 6 yards, but Woodson also intercepted Steve Young twice and blocked a 47-yard field goal attempt.
Possessing the ideal blend of speed and strength, Woodson was a world-class athlete who qualified for the 1984 Olympic trials in the 110-meter hurdles, and he also finished his Steelers career as the team's all-time leader in punt and kickoff returns. Woodson ended his time in Pittsburgh with 38 interceptions and 13.5 sacks.
Ike Taylor never was a takeaway artist, but he started a lot of games at cornerback for Steelers teams that won two Super Bowls and played in a third during his dozen seasons with the team. Taylor played in 174 games and started 140 of those, in addition to 14 more games and 11 more starts in the playoffs. The Steelers were 9-2 in playoff games with Taylor as a starting cornerback.
Top photos of cornerback Ike Taylor.
But because Taylor managed only 14 interceptions during his career, he never accumulated the amount of splash plays that get cornerbacks voted to the Pro Bowl, but like Woodson there was a time when very good Steelers defenses deployed him all over the field against the opposing team's best receiver.
OTHERS TO CONSIDER
Cornerback is not one of the positions with a storied history at any point during the Steelers' time in the NFL. There was Jack Butler during the Dark Ages, and Mel Blount during the Renaissance. In addition to Woodson and Taylor, the other cornerbacks to be most productive for the Steelers during the Modern Era were DESHEA TOWNSEND and DEWAYNE WASHINGTON, with CHAD SCOTT and WILLIAM GAY figuring into the franchise's more recent history.
Townsend was a fourth-round pick from Alabama in 1998, and he went on to develop into a valuable piece of the Steelers defense for a decade. Townsend finished his career with 15.5 sacks and 21 interceptions, and he recorded at least two interceptions in each of the eight seasons from 2001-08.
Washington was one of the team's rare unrestricted free agent signings back in the days before Heinz Field was built. After coming over from the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, Washington played six seasons with the Steelers in which he contributed 19 interceptions and four fumble recoveries. He led the team in interceptions in 1998, tied for the team lead in 1999, and he led the team again in 2000.
Scott played seven seasons with the Steelers and finished his career here with 19 interceptions and two fumble recoveries, but he's best known for being the last cornerback the team drafted on the first round – in 1997 from the University of Maryland.
Gay is still an active player and has spent most of his career with the Steelers being underappreciated by the fans, but he is the team's best cornerback right now. In 2014, Gay set a franchise record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns, which came in games vs. Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Atlanta.