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Battle brews in Steelers' secondary

| Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn't endorse veteran Bryant McFadden as a starter when asked Thursday about the competition at left cornerback between McFadden and second-year player Keenan Lewis during training camp.

Yesterday was the final day of camp at St. Vincent College. The Steelers concluded practice for Saturday night's second preseason game against the New York Giants at New Meadowlands Stadium.

"I think that Keenan Lewis has really had a good camp and showing that he's maybe prepared to take the next step," Tomlin said during his news conference. "We're going to continue to give him looks and exposure. If he makes enough plays and gets our attention, we'll consider playing him if he's worthy."

Tomlin did not say if Lewis would start against the Giants.

Asked about McFadden, who practiced with the first-team defense throughout camp and started in last week's preseason opener against Detroit, Tomlin replied, "He's doing a rock-solid job. He's re-acclimated himself to being here and how we do things. We like B-Mac. We like the way he not only plays but works, and the kind of teammate he is. That's why we brought him back."

The Steelers re-acquired McFadden, the team's second-round draft pick in 2005, in a draft-day trade with Arizona along with a sixth-round selection for a fifth-round choice. McFadden signed a three-year contract extension.

Earlier in the week, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and defensive backs coach Ray Horton spoke with reporters about an open competition at left cornerback. McFadden said he's working under the assumption that he's the starter.

"I'm really not factoring in anything that's being said. I haven't asked any questions since day one," McFadden said. "They told me to come in and play good football like I was when I left, and that's what I'm trying to do. I haven't heard anything. I'm just doing what they tell me to do and going off that."

Tomlin said Lewis impressed the coaching staff with a play he made in the rear of the end zone in the first half of last Saturday's 23-7 win, breaking up a potential 18-yard touchdown pass to Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.

"He was put in some interesting situations last week against a quality, quality receiver," Tomlin said.

On the play in question, Lewis, listed at 6 feet, timed his leap and deflected a pass intended for the 6-5 Johnson.

Four plays later, however, Johnson burned Lewis when he feigned a move to the rear of the end zone but stopped short and made a 2-yard touchdown catch that left Lewis back on his heels.

In the same drive, Lewis had difficulty covering Nate Burleson, who caught two passes against him — including one in which he broke the cornerback's tackle.

Part of Lewis' assignment against Detroit featured him playing a more prominent role inside the Steelers' 20. It's the same role that other young Steelers cornerbacks such as McFadden and Ricardo Colclough played until they became more familiar with the defense.

Unless he is told otherwise, McFadden is preparing to start against the Giants.

"I feel like I've been playing pretty good. I'm just happy to have an opportunity to continue to play football at a high level, and that's what I will do," McFadden said. "I really don't read into what this person is saying or that person is saying. There's only a select few that's down here on the field with us."

Additional Information:

Tomlin's take

What the Steelers got out of training camp from a team-building standpoint:

'I think that camaraderie, chemistry, the things that you can't measure that you gain from camp are very important. Those of us who have been around enough football teams realize that time spent formally and informally, secluded if you will, some of the things that training camp environment provides are essential to team building.'

Whether there was anything the Steelers didn't accomplish while at training camp:

'I measure training camps by seasons, and that's always been the case with me. I'll let you know how the training camp is hopefully in February.'

Ben Roethlisberger saying he would be nervous before playing in his first game since getting punished for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy:

'He's nervous quite often, big games and so forth. He's never been bashful about stating that. That's been my experience with him. I'd be nervous if he wasn't a little edgy. I think all of us are edgy at times, big games, new experiences. You've got to acknowledge this is a new experience for him.'

Whether he stressed the need for ball security to the running backs after some fumbling issues in the preseason opener:

'I didn't. I assume that they understood that that's unacceptable. If they didn't, that's going to be unfortunate for them.'

How much the game plan changes from a first preseason game to the second one:

'Very little. We're just going to play football. We're more concerned about seeing what guys are capable of doing. Part of that is making sure that you're running things they can execute so it's not going to be anything crazy.'

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