Taylor made for Steelers

In the Steelers first two games opponents have thrown Ike Taylor's way seven times and with very little success. Against Baltimore, he completely shut down receiver Lee Evans. Last week he allowed just one reception, a nine-yard catch by Seahawks receiver Mike Williams.

"It's just two games," said Taylor. "It's two games, it's too early. It's good to jump off to a good start, but I am not paying attention to that right now."

Others, though, are paying attention. It's hard not to.  

"He is playing at a high level," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "He has performed to this point and we are pleased with what he is doing."

Taylor has been faced with the challenge of covering opponent's top receivers each week, which likely will translate into him going against the Colts Reggie Wayne this week. It's a challenge he will never back down from.

"That is what I want to do," said Taylor. "That is the type of load I want. It's a challenge week-in and week-out. The thing I like about it is it's a different challenge each week. That is why I do what I do in the offseason, to be ready for right now."

His offseason consists of working with trainer Tom Shaw at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. And while the facility has all of the bells and whistles needed, the workouts don't resemble a visit to an amusement park in any way, shape or form. 

"I'm a workaholic, from the sandpits, to the swimming pool, track, field, to maybe going twice a day, dieting, watching what I eat, I do it all," said Taylor. "My coach pretty much has to stop me from working out because if not I will go all day.

"Coach Shaw has a 40-yard sandpit in the woods. You would think in the woods there would be some kind of shade. There is no shade in the woods. I don't know if the heat just sits back there, but it's hotter there than being on the track that is wide open with no type of shade. He keeps us unbalanced when it comes to workouts during the offseason. You don't know what you are going to get yourself into and that is good. Always expecting the unexpected is good as far as working out. It's just the elements he puts us through, having 18-20 pound vests on that time of year. It strengthens you physically, but it's more mental growth."

That mental growth has helped Taylor fight through whatever has come his way, most recently battling back from a broken left thumb in the preseason opener against the Redskins that he underwent surgery for.

"He is doing a nice job of playing through personal adversity that he is going through in terms of his injury," said Tomlin. "He hadn't missed a lot of time.  He has found ways to continue to work and improve in spite of it. 

"Really he is a blue print for young guys in terms of what it is about to be a veteran player and to prepare and to deal with things that occur in professional football and not allow them to become excuses."

Taylor went through the remainder of training camp with a cast on his hand, but that didn't stop him from practicing, even with pain. Some feared he could miss playing time during the regular season, but not Taylor.

"It hurt going out there, but I thought about my son, my mom, people who made sacrifices to help me out, I think about all of that," said Taylor. "That all comes into play. When I have certain nicks, I don't think about them.  Coach T and the doctors need to tell me they don't want me on the field for me not to go on the field.

"Once I get on the field…practice was tough. On Sunday you get hit and might think about it, but my mind is just totally focused on that play. Week after week it's getting better. I am getting more confidence using my left hand. It's a whole lot better."

As he was getting ready to talk a little more about the injury, Taylor paused and his mind went elsewhere. It went to those he met earlier this week at Heroes at Heinz Field, an event the Steelers and VA Hospital host for members of the Armed Services who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

He thought about those who are truly fighting back from injuries, not the bumps and bruises he gets on the football field, but the wounds a 20-year old suffered from a gunshot to his leg, to the young man who lost both his legs after stepping on an explosive device while on patrol.

"Seeing the veterans at Heinz Field, kind of brought everything into a new perspective," said Taylor. "These little injuries we have are nothing compared to them. We entertain, they fight for our freedom. That is a whole different level. Me being mentally tough and wanting to go out there and disregard my thumb, it's something I never thought twice about. But seeing the veterans and the injuries they have, fighting for our freedom, it put everything in perspective."

Their stories inspired Taylor, as did their ability to overcome their injuries and move forward with such a positive attitude.

"Those guys don't even feel sorry for themselves," said Taylor. "They are like 'I know what I got myself into, I am doing this for my country; I am doing this for freedom.' They know they might lose a leg, arm or eye, or might not come back home…and just to see them have fun, being in a wheelchair and not think twice about it. They tell you don't look at my situation; I am going to be all right.

"Those guys are mentally tough."

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