The Steelers won two Super Bowls in a four-season span (one in 2005 and one in 2008) — and to hear Ike Taylor tell it, those wins launched them into "living legends" status.
Speaking with Steelers Takeaways, Taylor detailed some key aspects of his time with the Steelers, but nothing was juicier than the details he shared about their rock star lifestyle at the height of their powers. It's mint.
For example ...
"It was 30 for 30 [the popular ESPN docuseries]," Taylor said. "Between the years of ’04 and ’12, no producer could script how we lived on and off the field. We were like damn rock stars."
Everybody has a vague idea of what living like a rock star means, but Taylor lifted the curtain completely throughout the interview, getting specific with it.
"We had every Tuesday off," Taylor said. "We were winning championships and in the playoffs every year. We had the key to the city. Hell, we had the keys to every city. Cleveland, Atlantic City, New York … any city. You couldn’t script the lifestyle we lived in Pittsburgh.
"Restaurants, clubs — we’d shut them down. Whatever we wanted the owners gave us. They let us close their places down. They gave us the key and told us to lock it up when we were done. I don’t think they’re doing that now. We’d hang out on Carson Street and talk to the police about football until four or five a.m. — just talking on the street. Then we’d go to the facility and work out and get ready for practice."
Even recent Hall of Fame inductee Bill Cowher wasn't about to intervene. The team was winning. Why get in the middle of that?
"Cowher, from the player standpoint – he had that mean mug face, but he was tougher on the coaches than the players," Taylor said. "He was a player’s coach ... He let us police ourselves. He never came into the locker room, and if something happened there he let us take care of it and figure it out."
Perhaps the most interesting part of all this, though, was that despite all the preferential treatment and "having it easy," those Steelers teams never kicked up too much dust or caused problems and locker-room tension. Somehow, it all worked. And Taylor has an idea why.
"Ryan Clark — he was right — you have to understand your place in life and with the people you played with who were great," Taylor said. "Troy [Polamalu] was great. He was Michael Jackson and we were the Jackson 5. We were the other guys and figured to get some fame, too. But he didn’t want the fame. When you see that, you fall back."
Taylor also mentioned James Farrior, Jerome Bettis and Joey Porter as key figures who helped him forge a long, successful career with the Steelers. Porter, in particular, was a key reason the locker room also maintained a comfortable, cool climate, according to Taylor.
"Porter was such a well-rounded guy," Taylor said. "Peezy — he could hang out with a janitor or a CEO. He cared for everyone and that’s why everyone loved him in the locker room. There were no [cliques] – we all [hung] out. The offensive line and defensive lines … My closest peers were on the offensive and defensive line because I saw Porter do it."
And while the locker room never changed much throughout Taylor's career, one major change did occur: The team moved from Cowher to Mike Tomlin. If Taylor thought he had it easy before, Tomlin revved that notion to the max.
"Well, I’m trying to think of how to say this," Taylor began. "Porter was Cowher’s guy. But when Tomlin let me do stuff, Porter was like, 'I thought I had it good with Cowher!'"
Oh yes. That's just the start of it.
"In training camp, he [Tomlin] had so much trust in me," Taylor said. "He just told me not to make him look bad. And I didn’t. He gave me a long leash and sometimes just took the leash off. He had so much trust in me. I did so much stuff, man. Let me put it to you like this: I didn’t have to break any rules. I couldn’t break any rules, because I didn’t have any to break."
And while Taylor clearly had it made, he never let his performance slip on the field ... until it did. Father Time is undefeated, and it caught up with Taylor in his 12th and final year with the Steelers. It took one play for Taylor to know he needed to hang 'em up for good.
"I retired in the [Week 14, 2014] Cincinnati game," Taylor said. "I broke my forearm in the [Week 3] Carolina game and came back for the game in Cincinnati. While I was out, I asked the coaches if I could help the young guys out and sit in the film room. They were all for that."
Then it happened.
"When I came back, A.J. Green beat me on a post for a touchdown," Taylor continued. "I wasn’t upset about it. Usually, when I got beat I was hot as a mother, and when it was for a touchdown it was like the end of the world. But I wasn’t mad. That’s when I knew it was time to go. You’re not doing the team or organization justice just going through the motions. I couldn’t play like that."
Everyone around Taylor immediately recognized something was wrong, too.
"I was on the sidelines and Kevin Colbert asked me what was wrong," Taylor said. "I told him I was done, that I lost my passion. He asked me if I was serious. That’s how good our relationship was — that I could do that mid-game. He looked me in the eyes and knew I was serious. Coach T[omlin] talked to me after the game and knew I was serious too. That’s what started everything,"
There's plenty more — like how Deshea Townsend bought Taylor a Ford F-150 as soon as he arrived in the Steel City — in the full interview. Check it out right here.
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