The Pittsburgh Steelers have had three Hall of Fame running backs in their backfield during their storied history. Four if you count “Bullet” Bill Dudley who “The Chief” Art Rooney loved and agonized over when he traded him away at the behest of Jock Sutherland, the year prior to Pittsburgh’s only playoff appearance in the pre–Super Bowl era of the NFL. Ike Taylor, a Steelers legend in his own right, recently revealed on his Beleav in Steelers podcast that he hosts with Mark Bergin, his confrontation with “The Bus” Jerome Bettis at training camp at Saint Vincent College early in his career.
“Latrobe just brings back a lot of good memories,” Taylor relates. “We are doing a toss sweep on the goal line and it’s me and Jerome Bettis. Me and Jerome Bettis one on one. Coach [Dick] LeBeau had scripted the play to see if little old Ike Taylor was afraid to hit big running backs.”
Taylor played for the Steelers from 2003 thru the 2014 season. He was the number one cornerback for the black and gold for nine of his 12 seasons. While he never made a Pro Bowl appearance, he did play in three Super Bowls, and he was one of the most physical cornerbacks in the NFL’s recent history. Bettis might have been the best big running back in modern history plowing for over 13,000 yards in his storied career and 91 touchdowns.
“I answered the call,” the hard-hitting Taylor shares. “I answered his question, I came up, I gave Jerome everything I had. Jerome didn’t score. Now I did need help from all the rest of the 10 other guys for Bussy not to score.”
Bettis was one of the best goal line weapons in recent memory. His destruction of Brian Urlacher at the goal line against the Chicago Bears in 2005 was the turning point for a Super Bowl run by the Steelers. The few times that he was stopped on the goal line are highlight plays for opposing defenses. He was incredibly hard to stop in short yardage situations and virtually impossible to stop one on one. Taylor remembering the situation with pride continued:
“My teammates and even Bussy, at the time it was Duce Staley and Bussy sitting in that backfield. All the boys gave me props and from that point on, I was the Steelers starting cornerback.”
Bettis was listed at 5’11” and 250 pounds for most of his career and those who saw him play can vouch that while nimble, he was shaped similar to a bowling ball. Taylor was a 6’1″, 195 pound tall rangy cornerback and a collision between Bettis and anyone he outweighed by more than 50 pounds was unlikely to go in the lighter man’s favor. The technique to stop, never mind slow Bettis, had to be an astonishing moment.
Bettis, who has always been a Steelers fan favorite via Taylor’s recall, showed real class in popping up and congratulating a young cornerback who was heading into his first season as a starter on a great play. The moment was a pivotal one for the Steelers and his ascension to starting cornerback was key to the dominant defenses over the next few seasons. Taylor does not mention a year during the story, but based on the arc of his career, it was likely during the training camp in 2005.
2005 was the final season that Bettis played and Taylor’s first year as a starter for the Steelers. Taylor solidified an effective Pittsburgh secondary, that also featured Hall of Famer, Troy Polamalu. Ben Roethlisberger was only in his second season in the NFL and despite a reduced role, the Hall of Fame running back was the unquestioned leader and voice of the offense. His leadership in praising Taylor may have been the moment that galvanized a special defense that helped deliver three Super Bowl appearances over the next six seasons.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Who is going to have a big moment when the Steelers put on pads next week? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.