Reserve role doesn't frustrate McFadden

By John Harris
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, August 30, 2008
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 85602.html

On the final day of training camp, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin burst Bryant McFadden's bubble.

By telling reporters that Deshea Townsend is his starting left cornerback, with McFadden settling for leftovers as the nickel back, Tomlin effectively killed McFadden's dream of becoming a starter in 2008.

In the wake of Tomlin's stinging comments, McFadden has never looked better.

McFadden's strong performance in the final two preseason games won't change Tomlin's mind about who will start at left cornerback against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7 at Heinz Field. But it speaks loudly to McFadden's professionalism and his desire to improve.

"I'm a competitor. My No. 1 goal was to be the starter. If that's how (Tomlin) sees it, so be it. I still have a job to do," McFadden said.

"There's nothing wrong with being labeled as the third corner. Most teams have three real good receivers and the fourth one can probably be a starter also. You need to have at least three corners that can get the job done."

McFadden was asked how it felt to be passed over for the starting job. Normally reluctant to speak his mind, McFadden revealed that his emotions were still raw.

"Being human, it's easy to find fault and negativity," McFadden said. "Something my mother always told me: It might not look how you want it to look right now, but just continue to press forward and continue to believe and positive things will happen for you."

McFadden's ball-hawking skills produced a first-quarter interception against Carolina on Thursday night that showcased his ability to absorb defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's massive playbook.

McFadden read quarterback Matt Moore's eyes from snap to pick. After dropping into coverage, he drove aggressively to the ball and stepped in front of receiver Dwayne Jarrett to make the grab and navigate a 31-yard return.

"It was third and long. I read the quarterback pretty good. I got a good feel where he wanted to go. I wanted to disguise and show him something he wasn't expecting," McFadden said.

This is a critical time for McFadden, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. A second-round draft pick in 2005, McFadden needs to enjoy individual as well as team success to spark negotiations for his new contract.

Becoming a starter this season would have helped McFadden's negotiations with the Steelers. Given the team's growing reluctance to sign its potential free agents, this could be McFadden's final season in Pittsburgh.

Not that McFadden is concerned with what his future holds.

"Going into camp I wanted to be consistent. These last couple of weeks I just told myself go ahead and turn it loose," McFadden said. "As long as you're making plays and doing positive things, people will notice, regardless if you're coming off the bench or if you're on the field all the time."

John Harris is a sports writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.