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Put up or shut up for Steelers CB McFadden

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Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010

Tonight's game against New England at Heinz Field is huge for Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. The pressure is rising, and McFadden's value is falling like Blockbuster stock.

There are indications, if you know where to look, that McFadden's status as the starting left corner is becoming more precarious each day. Local journalists aren't permitted to report what occurs at practice, but there were signs last week that a shakeup in the secondary could be forthcoming.

That's not why the Steelers re-acquired McFadden on draft day -- to bench him in the middle of the season. However, rival offensive coordinators are targeting McFadden at a high rate.

The NFL is a copycat league. When one team experiences success against a player or team, everyone piles on. That's what's occurring with McFadden, a six-year veteran and former second-round draft choice.

Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer targeted wide receiver Terrell Owens 14 times in the Steelers' 27-21 win Monday night. Owens responded with a game-high 10 receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Several of those catches were against McFadden, but no big deal. Owens is a future Hall of Famer with 151 career touchdown receptions. However, it was troubling how easy Owens made his 27-yard touchdown catch look against McFadden in the fourth quarter.

McFadden lined up at least 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, and Owens still beat him handily. Palmer made a great throw, and Owens ran a great route and make a great catch. McFadden made it too easy for Owens by not pressuring him in the 5-yard area where defensive backs are permitted to jam and re-route receivers.

A week earlier, New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston blew past McFadden for a 16-yard touchdown reception. Again, McFadden failed to jam Colston at the line of scrimmage.

Following tonight's game against Wes Welker and the Patriots, the Steelers will face other elite receivers such as Anquan Boldin of the Baltimore Ravens, Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets and Owens a second time. It's now or never for McFadden.

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