Healthy McFadden seeks Steelers' starting spot
Coach Mike Tomlin has taken a simple approach to the OTA practices the Steelers are holding this month and in June: players nursing injuries, including minor ones, will watch more than they will participate.
"Have to," Tomlin said after practice Wednesday at the team's South Side facility. "The purpose of this is to get better, not get worse, so we'll have to exercise caution."
The Steelers have not had to handle Bryant McFadden with care during offseason practices, and that is telling of how good the cornerback feels physically after playing at times on two bad ankles in 2007.
If staying healthy is McFadden's top priority for the 2008 season, then supplanting veteran Deshea Townsend in the starting lineup has to rank No. 1A on his list of goals.
And time is particularly of the essence for McFadden, 26, since he is entering the final year of his contract.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder started nine games in 2006, but he played as a reserve/nickel back in all 14 games he dressed for last season.
McFadden suffered a high-ankle sprain in the fourth game of the season at Arizona. The injury forced him to miss three games, and when he returned to the field, he did so at less than full strength. He sprained his other ankle in the Steelers' 19-16 loss to the Jets in mid-November, and that proved to be another setback in what turned out to be a frustrating season.
"A lot of people probably didn't understand the pain I was going through playing with two sprained ankles," said McFadden, a second-round pick by the Steelers in the 2005 NFL Draft, "especially playing cornerback."
McFadden has the size and athleticism to excel as a cornerback, and he has shown flashes during his first three NFL seasons.
He had one of the more celebrated pass break-ups in recent Steelers history in January 2006, when he made a season-saving play in the end zone near the end of the Steelers' 21-18 upset of the Colts in an AFC Divisional playoff game.
The following season, McFadden tied for the team lead in interceptions (three) while getting a chance to start in place of the struggling Ike Taylor.
Taylor, however, is firmly entrenched at one cornerback spot, and the 32-year-old Townsend is the man to beat out opposite Taylor.
That means McFadden, who made just one interception in 2007, has to do more than just stay healthy to finally crack the starting lineup.
"I guess just be a difference-maker, make plays, do things that stand out and be consistent," McFadden said on what he needs to go to take the next step in his career. "Last year was kind of tough for me. I wasn't able to be myself like I usually am. I'm blessed to be out here every day running around with my teammates and having fun."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers visit with Arizona State receiver Strong, claim long snapper
- Maligned Nebraska OLB Gregory visits Steelers
- Steelers veteran cornerback Ike Taylor announces retirement
- Steelers name player engagement coordinator
- Steelers host two more pre-draft tight ends
- Steelers notebook: Nebraska LB scheduled to visit Steelers Thursday
- Steelers notebook: DeCastro contract option picked up
- Steelers host Auburn WR Coates, 2 others