PITTSBURGH - Marvin Harrison on Monday, Chad Johnson on Sunday.
For an NFL cornerback, it's about as difficult a work week as one could imagine. This week, it's Ike Taylor's challenge - and, so far, he's not happy with the results.
Taylor, the Pittsburgh Steelers' first-year starting cornerback, bit on a Peyton Manning play fake on the first play Monday night and was beaten by Harrison for an 80-yard touchdown pass that put Indianapolis up 7-0.
The Steelers (7-4) never recovered from the kind of mistake Taylor told himself beforehand he could not make against such a quality quarterback and quality receiver, and they lost 26-7, their second successive defeat.
That defeat has backed the Steelers into a corner going into their biggest regular-season game in years Sunday against the division-leading Bengals (8-3). If the Steelers lose, they will trail the Bengals in the AFC North by two games with four to play, a significant hurdle to overcome in so short a time.
If that happens, don't think Taylor won't spend part of his offseason replaying one of his few glaring mistakes since becoming a starter this season.
"If I had eliminated that first big play, I think I would've played a pretty decent game," Taylor said. "But I don't care about the rest of the game; all I care about is that big play."
Taylor is so respectful of Harrison's ability, and the way he played Monday in making four catches for 128 yards, that Taylor has referred to him this week as "Mr. Harrison" - a rare show of respect in a league where courtesy often is seen as a lack of confidence.
"He's a future Hall of Famer," Taylor said. "He's still getting the job done. I've got to give him that respect."
However, Taylor doesn't afford the same courtesy to Johnson, the AFC receiving leader who was held to four catches in the Steelers' 27-13 victory in Cincinnati on Oct. 23. With Taylor shadowing him from one side of the field to the other, an adjustment the Steelers rarely make, Johnson was limited to four mostly inconsequential catches.
Johnson made one big-yardage reception, a 47-yarder, but it came well after the Steelers had secured their ninth victory in 11 games against Cincinnati. Afterward, Johnson said he was impressed with Taylor, a fourth-round draft pick in 2003.
"I said the last time when the game ended, he's one of the best cover corners in the league," Johnson said. "Anytime a coach has the trust to put a defensive back on an island with one of the best receivers in the league, that puts him in a category of his own. I said it the last time and I'm going to stick with it, and I'm looking forward to the challenge."
So is Taylor, who knows a good game Sunday against Johnson would ease the disappointment of allowing the pivotal play of the game against the Colts. He doesn't know if Johnson's praise was meant as a compliment or to make him overconfident, and he doesn't really care.
For now, he wants to shut down Johnson the way he did in the first game and prevent him from doing one of his wacky touchdown dances on the Steelers' home field.
"He said I had a pretty good game, that I was a good cornerback and he wasn't expecting that from me," Taylor said. "I don't know if he thought I was going to be a pushover. But, after the game, he gave me some respect."
Just not enough yet for Taylor to call him Mr. Johnson.
"Chad, to him, it's like playground football," Taylor said. "He's out there having fun. If he keeps playing the way he's been playing, he'll get everyone's respect. but Mr. Harrison's been putting it down for a long time. You've got to respect that."
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