The Pittsburgh Steelers, looking to build on a promising 2014 season which saw a breakout year from running back Le'Veon Bell, are undergoing a fairly dramatic changing of the guard.
Changing of the guard
The franchise have already lost one cornerstone of the franchise this offseason after the retirement of strong safety Troy Polamalu, and official word today has revealed that fans are going to have to get used to life without another popular figure.
That is because Ike Taylor, like Polamalu selected by the Steelers in the 2003 NFL Draft, has called time on his pro football career after 12 years of service in Pittsburgh. His parting message for the team too will help ensure his legacy.
Taylor's time with the Steelers saw him cement his place as a cult figure and, although the 34-year-old struggled during an injury-hit 2014 campaign, there is no doubt his absence at the cornerback position will be felt moving forward.
Speaking to the Pittsburgh Steelers' official website, Taylor explained what it meant to him to be able to retire as a one-team man.
"Other than having my son, playing for the Steelers has been the best experience in my entire lifetime.
"It is rare, in this day of free agency that is super rare to play for one team. For me to have this opportunity says a lot about how they felt about me, what I have back to the organization."
With Taylor's most recent deal - a reduced one-year contract for the 2014 season - having come to and end, the CB was an unrestricted free agent. It doesn't look like a change of scenery was ever a legitimate option though.
"I wasn't cut, I wasn't released. It was just my contract was up and it was time to retire. If you want to have pride, well that is the kind of pride I have, being able to play my contract out."
The 34-year-old managed just five games last season but his performances through 12 years and 140 regular-season games for Pittsburgh mean he will go down as one of the franchise's top players in his position.
Steelers fans will likely remember him most fondly for his interception in Super Bowl XL, a clutch move that helped the team win their fifth title.
Having entered the NFL with just one year's experience at the cornerback position it is testament to Taylor's dedication that he leaves the league likely having inspired many of those currently playing the position today.
What do you think Steelers fans? Will your team miss Taylor and Polamalu? Or is it time to move on with a new set of stars? Have your say in the comments section below...
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