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If healthy, McFarland good for Steelers

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Monday, May 12, 2008

I like what Jacksonville did in the NFL Draft. The Jaguars needed a pass rusher to keep pace among AFC playoff teams and drafted not one but two.

If I'm offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, I love what the Steelers did in the draft -- selecting a running back, wide receiver and a tackle among the top four picks.

If I'm defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, I hate what the Steelers did in the draft -- no true defensive linemen taken following a season in which his unit registered only four sacks in 100 pass attempts in its three biggest losses (New England and Jacksonville twice).

Veteran free agent defensive lineman Anthony "Booger" McFarland is probably looking pretty good to the Steelers right now.

Signing McFarland would allow the Steelers to save face.

The Steelers needed to improve their defensive line depth. They didn't, unless you count signing three undrafted free agents as tackling the problem head-on.

Compare that with Jacksonville trading a total of five draft picks to select defensive ends Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves in the first two rounds.

Getting back to McFarland, who missed all of last season with a torn patellar tendon, the Steelers should be first in line for his private workout June 4 in Tampa, Fla.

"He's still a free agent. He's still unsigned," agent Karl Bernard said of McFarland, who helped the Indianapolis Colts win a Super Bowl in 2006. "He's chomping at the bit to get with a team."

McFarland also won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin. That might explain McFarland visiting the Steelers in March, although he didn't leave with a contract.

Bernard said McFarland's knee is improving. But that's what a player's representative is supposed to say.

To demonstrate he can still be an effective player, McFarland will hold a workout next month for potential suitors.

"Just to show where he is and what he's able to do," Bernard said. "He's going to go through a series of drills indicating that he's healed from the injury."

If healthy, McFarland is a proven run-stuffer and pass rusher.

Some might call McFarland a gamble, but it appears the Steelers are in a gambling mood.

Consider that defensive end Aaron Smith is 32 and coming off a biceps injury.

Also consider the Steelers are gambling that a defensive line whose key components will all be 30 and older in 2008 won't wear down under the strain of the 16-game grind.

Asked recently if the Steelers still want to add another defensive lineman, director of football operations Kevin Colbert said, "If they can be had and they can fit financially, then we are not going to close the door on that. Are there defensive linemen available in free agency• We hope so."

For Colbert's sake, they'd better do more than hope so.

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