A key matchup: WR Donald Driver vs. Steelers CB Bryant McFadden
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When previously he tried to defend the passing game of the Green Bay Packers, cornerback Bryant McFadden had the tire marks on his back to prove how badly it turned out.
It was in an NFC wild-card playoff game a year ago, when McFadden was with the Arizona Cardinals, and he was trying to stop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' receivers while playing with a bruised sternum.
Not a good idea.
McFadden gave up three touchdown passes to three receivers -- Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson -- and also was beaten for pass plays of 27, 28 and 44 yards in Arizona's 51-45 overtime victory. A week later, he was beaten for two more touchdowns in a 45-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a divisional playoff game.
A year later, McFadden has learned his lesson. Not about how to stop the Packers; rather, don't try to play injured if you can't help the team.
"Being a competitor, everybody has that kind of mentality," said McFadden, who is back with the Steelers after only one season with the Cardinals. "You can only do what your body allows you to do. You learn sometimes. Everything happens for a reason."
Maybe that's why McFadden, a year older and wiser, did not start in the AFC championship victory against the New York Jets. He had been bothered by an abdominal/groin injury that caused him to come out each of the previous two games against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
Instead of trying to prove his toughness by playing with an injury that limited his effectiveness, he went along with the plan of letting William Gay start at cornerback and playing only in the nickel defense as the extra defensive back against the Jets.
"This time I took it as a different situation," McFadden said. "I didn't want it to be a situation that could hurt myself and our team. It's just humbling yourself down and not being selfish about the situation and being smart also.
"And the way my role was [against the Jets] put me in position to be feeling a lot better this week."
McFadden practiced only one day last week when the Steelers were back at their South Side facility, but he said he intends to practice every day this week, starting today when the team holds their first full workout at Texas Christian University.
If all goes according to plan, he will start against the Packers and Gay will go back to his role as the nickel back.
"I'm just thankful to have the opportunity to be where I'm at today," said McFadden, one of 17 players on the active roster with two Super Bowl rings. "I feel very pleased being here. I was honored and thankful. What more could you ask for?
"Only two teams are still practicing and we're one of them. That's the reason why we are where we are, because of the guys we have around here, the camaraderie, the no-selfish attitude. It's a blessing to be around these guys."
The Steelers will use those guys to give McFadden some help against the Packers. If defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has cornerback Ike Taylor follow top receiver Greg Jennings, McFadden will be left to handle any one of the other four Packers receivers, including veteran Donald Driver.
"This is probably the best group I've played with," said Driver, a 12-year veteran who is making his first appearance in the Super Bowl. "All around, everybody brings something different to the table. Right now, if they left the Green Bay Packers, they could go play anywhere in the National Football League and be starters. I'm just glad they're on my side."
Maybe McFadden has learned a lesson.
First Published February 2, 2011 12:27 am