T. Taylor, Scott right their rocky roads

Ravens wide receiver, Steelers cornerback elevate their games

Pro Football

January 18, 2002|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The improvements have been virtually concurrent.

Ravens receiver Travis Taylor and Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Chad Scott are living up to their first-round draft choice status now and will line up against each other frequently in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game at Heinz Field.

Taylor and Scott, a former Maryland and Towson standout, both had tough stretches this season but have elevated their games lately. For Taylor, that meant making big plays. For Scott, it meant not giving up any.

"Chad has had a solid year," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "I know there was a stretch of games where there were some plays being made. But the one thing I like about Chad is the look in his eye. He is a guy who loves challenges. He is a very confident player. And I'll tell you what, he's a good tackler and plays the ball well. He's a complete corner and had a Pro Bowl-type of year."

Scott and the Steelers' secondary had back-to-back games - Nov. 25 and Dec. 2 - in which they gave up more than 300 yards passing and four touchdowns. But Pittsburgh did not allow more than 159 yards passing over its next three games as Scott and fellow cornerback DeWayne Washington helped elevate its secondary to finish fourth in the league.

Around the same time as the Steelers' struggles, Taylor had all but disappeared from the Ravens' offense. Taylor went through a three-game stretch beginning Nov. 25 where he made a total of five catches for 65 yards.

That was a distant memory after Sunday's playoff win at Miami. All three of Taylor's touches had an impact on the game-clinching drive.

Taylor caught a 45-yard Elvis Grbac pass on a third-down play deep in Ravens territory in the third quarter, then took an end around 15 yards before catching a 4-yard touchdown pass. He accounted for 64 yards on a 99-yard march that put the Ravens up 14-3.

"I think it is the most I've contributed since I've been here," Taylor said. "But that is what they drafted me for. They didn't draft me 10th overall for anything. So that is the thing I have to do, I have to go out there and make plays."

Taylor struggled to do so in the two previous games against Scott and the Steelers this season, finishing with a combined three catches for 30 yards.

But after having such a positive effect against the No. 1 secondary in the league, Taylor enters this game with a load of confidence and some playoff experience.

"He's always had a good sense of running routes," Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said. "I think he is understanding how to do it against different people every week, how it has to change. How you have to be a little more detailed in how you are going to approach a defensive back. All that understanding comes with experience, and it is starting to show up."

In Scott, Taylor is facing a cornerback who will not jam him as much at the line of scrimmage as Miami's Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison. That won't render Scott any less effective, though.

"You need to be aware of the differences in their techniques," Cavanaugh said. "They don't play a whole lot of man. So within their zone, you have to understand what kind of techniques they play. For example, it seems like Washington would take more chances. He may jump somebody's first move. It seems like Chad plays a little bit softer, tries to keep things in front of him and doesn't want any big plays given up on himself."

Scott led the Steelers with five interceptions.

"Chad and DeWayne are very good technique corners," Taylor said. "They are good at what they do. They spy the quarterback. We have to come ready to play and adjust our game from last week."

The Steelers have always seemed to be a team Taylor has not had much luck against. Last season, he fractured his clavicle against Pittsburgh.

"This is a whole lot different, especially from being on the sidelines watching," Taylor said. "Just to be out there contributing to the team, helping the team win, it's just a great feeling. It's something you dream about growing up, being in a playoff atmosphere and intensity. The whole thing is better than it is during the regular season."

Said Ravens coach Brian Billick: "It is all new for him. We've never had Travis in this [playoff] capacity before. He clearly made some big plays the other day. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about him experiencing this for the first time, learning from it and what that means not only for us now but for his development next year."

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