The Steelers' reacquisition of Bryant McFadden a little more than a year after he had departed for Arizona in free agency signals there will be greater competition at cornerback and perhaps a change at one of the starting spots after the pass defense underwhelmed last season. McFadden, 28, started 18 games for Pittsburgh from 2005-08, and he could overtake William Gay as one of the starters. Gay started 14 games in 2009 but was benched at the end of the year.
Steelers DBs coach Ray Horton told Pittsburgh reporters that Gay has dedicated himself in the offseason and learned a lesson from last season. "I think if you talked to William directly, he would say he became a little too full of himself," Horton said on the final day of the draft. "He split time with Bryant when he was here, when Bryant had a couple of injuries, and we went on to win (Super Bowl XLIII). I'm sure he thought, 'I'm here, I've arrived.' I think he's more humble this year and he's working hard."
Horton said he hopes one of the cornerbacks seizes the job and that the Steelers would prefer not to have another rotation. McFadden, the fourth former key member of a recent Steelers Super Bowl team to be reacquired by the club in the offseason, also enters this season with something to prove after faltering in coverage late last season, something he attributed to playing through injuries. But the Steelers appear confident he can be a key contributor.
"He's capable of playing winning football for us at a high level," Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, speaking to Pittsburgh reporters, said of McFadden. "We were presented with an opportunity to bring him back into the fold. And, really, we jumped at it. He's a quality person and a good football player, one that we know and have a history with."
Second-year CBs Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis loom as options beyond McFadden and Gay.
For the most authoritative NFL draft news and free-agency analysis, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.