Minicamp: Steelers' young cornerbacks eager to prove their worth to Tomlin as the NFL draft approaches

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Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Ricardo Colclough warms up before Day 2 of the Steelers' minicamp on the South Side.
By By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Ike Taylor, Ricardo Colclough and Bryant McFadden did not say as much, but they are trying to convince new coach Mike Tomlin that there's no need for him to pick Pitt's Darrelle Revis Saturday in the first round of the NFL draft.

Where would the Steelers put another good, young cornerback such as Revis when they already have Taylor, Colclough and McFadden?

"You always need good corners on your team," veteran cornerback Deshea Townsend said.

The trouble for Tomlin and the Steelers' defensive staff is they do not know how many good corners they actually have. They have poured money and high draft picks into the position the past several years, and still they don't know.

Is Taylor one of them? He certainly seemed like it in September when the Steelers bestowed a five-year, $22.5 million contract on him with a $6.4 million signing bonus. By the end of November, though, former coach Bill Cowher had benched him for poor play.

The Steelers traded away a fourth-round draft choice to move higher in the second round in 2004 to take Colclough with the 38th overall pick. He enters his fourth season, having missed much of his third with a neck injury and having played little at the position.

Then there's McFadden, a second-round choice in 2005. He started nine games last season, some for an injured Townsend and then for Taylor when he was benched. McFadden and Townsend will compete to start at right cornerback this year.

If even two of those three would play up to their potential, the Steelers could use their first-round draft choice in more needy areas than cornerback.

Tomlin has taken a keen interest in Taylor, a big, fast cornerback who was specifically assigned to cover several teams' best receivers during the Steelers' Super Bowl season of 2005.

"He has great physical talent and he has the desire to be great," said Tomlin, who has put Taylor back as the No. 1 right cornerback, at least for this minicamp. "Based on my experience with him thus far, his actions match his words in terms of being what he wants to be. All he has to do is cross the threshold of that door on a daily basis with that attitude and he has a shot."

Taylor has attended every offseason workout and has taken to his new head coach, who coached the secondary in Tampa Bay for five of the previous six seasons.

"I love him," Taylor said. "I try to talk to him every day, just to see where I'm at, just the little things I might need to work on. He's a hands-on guy. I couldn't ask for nothing better."

The Steelers may be in a no-win situation with Colclough because if he plays up to his ability this year, he'll cash in as a free agent and leave. If he does not, they may not want him back.

"He's a guy who's on the come," Tomlin said. "He has to be. He's a guy who's in a contract year and it's time for him to define what kind of career he's going to have. He's aware of that; we've had that conversation."

A pinched nerve in his neck ended Colclough's season Oct. 7 when he was placed on injured reserve. It long has healed and he expects to finally show the Steelers why they took him just six spots below the first round.

"I expect myself to step up, especially after missing all last season,'' said Colclough, who is Taylor's backup at the moment. "I'm trying to bounce back from that."

Said Townsend, "He's always had the physical tools. It's just going to be up to him mentally to be ready to take that next step. He's capable of doing it."

McFadden was the most consistent of the young cornerbacks and has improved steadily.

Whether that's all enough to convince the Steelers to draft other positions than cornerback Saturday is another matter.

NOTES -- OT Max Starks said he will sign his one-year, $1.85 million contract the Steelers tended him as a restricted free agent, but he was in no hurry to do so. QB Brian St. Pierre, the team's only other RFA, was to sign his one-year, $850,000 contract tender yesterday. The period for an RFA to sign with another team ended Friday. There are no contract talks toward extensions for either player, both of who would become unrestricted free agents in March. ... Rian Wallace, who spent most of his time at inside linebacker in his first two NFL seasons, has been working on the left outside in Clark Haggans' absence. ... Sean Mahan, the team's only big free-agent signing, has practiced at guard but not at center. Tomlin said Mahan eventually will practice at center.

Matt Freed, Post-Gazette
Ike Taylor would like to show that the need to bench him last season was a fluke.
Click photo for larger image.

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Ed Bouchette can be reached at ebouchette@post-gazette.com .


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