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Free agency begins on Tuesday in the NFL, and for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it could live up to the cliché "the end of an era."
Dick LeBeau is already gone. Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Brett Keisel may not be coming back to that storied Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
Two of those Steelers are free agents: Taylor and Harrison.
Keisel and Polamalu are still signed to contracts, but Keisel is coming off a triceps injury, and reports this week indicated that Polamalu may be cut if he doesn’t plan to retire.
Harrison is in Arizona training to come back to the NFL, but will it be with the Steelers or another team?
And what about Taylor?
Channel 11 News talked with Taylor Friday about his future with the team and with the NFL, and whether he takes any of this personally.
“I think my time is done with the Steelers," Taylor said.
But it didn’t sound like the words of a bitter man.
Taylor said he understands that the NFL is a business.
While players, including Taylor, take it personally when they’re told they can’t do something anymore, Taylor also understands the business, and in his words, football “Is a young man’s game.”
Taylor has a lot of pride.
While he expressed a willingness to follow LeBeau, in this case to Tennessee, don’t necessarily look for him to reach out to the Titans.
“I told my agent that we're not reaching for anybody and we're not calling anybody. Somebody has to want Ike Taylor. I'm not asking (anybody),” Taylor said.
The best part of the conversation centered around his admiration for Dan Rooney, LeBeau and Polamalu.
He reflected that they are men of status and money who can talk to anybody, something that gained his respect and admiration.
He feels proud to have played for the franchise for 12 years as a fourth-round draft pick, who fought the odds to get and keep his spot on the corner.
Above all else, Taylor admires the fans.
“There's no other fan base in sports like Pittsburgh, just from what I've seen nationwide. I'm talking about from the black shoes to the yellow shoestrings all the way up to the embroidered Pittsburgh emblem on somebody's hat, that's how deep it is, and the guys you play with makes it even deeper,” Taylor said.
It may be the end of an era, but it sounds like, for at least one of them, it won’t be on bitter terms.
Have you talked to the Steelers ahead of Tuesday’s free agency?
“I think my time is done with the Steelers. I finished out my contract and that's where we stand.”
Will you test free agency?
“I told my agent that we're not reaching for anybody and we're not calling anybody. Somebody has to want Ike Taylor. I'm not asking (nobody).”
Can you still play?
“There's more to life than just football. For 12 years of my life, I've been a professional football player. Not too many people can say that. I had a great career. Do I have a lot left in my tank? Heck yeah.”
On the possible end of a career:
“There's a lot of things players fight when it comes to this final stage, but I'm a fighter man, keep it going. Football can't be played your whole life, it's a young man's sport.”
On Polamalu’s situation:
“Troy is one of them Hall of Fame guys I feel like I played with. His situation is Troy's situation. I'm going to leave that question for Troy.”
If this is the end of the line, how will you look back on your time as a Steeler, the organization and the fans?
“There's no other fanbase in sports like Pittsburgh, just from what I've seen nationwide. I'm talking about from the black shoes to the yellow shoestrings all the way up to the embroidered Pittsburgh emblem on somebody's hat, that's how deep it is, and the guys you play with makes it even deeper.”