Notebook: McFadden on the spot

PITTSBURGH – The cornerback position for the Steelers is having its ups and downs, at least on the injury report:

  • Starter Deshea Townsend missed the last game with a hamstring injury, but was upgraded yesterday from doubtful to questionable.

  • Back-up Ricardo Colclough missed the last game with a shoulder injury and was also upgraded from doubtful to questionable.

  • Last year's starter Willie Williams was added to the report with a groin injury. He's questionable for Sunday's game in Cincinnati.

    If none of the above can play Sunday, special-teams ace Chidi Iwuoma and rookie Bryant McFadden are all that's left to play the spot opposite Ike Taylor.

    Since Iwuoma was tried and then replaced by McFadden in Sunday's loss to Jacksonville, it can be assumed McFadden, the second-round draft pick, is in line to cover Chad Johnson on Sunday.

    "That's what it's looking like," said McFadden. "I just have to have myself prepared."

    McFadden (5-11, 190) is more of a physical cornerback than a run-and-cover type. He intercepted only one pass last year at Florida State, but matched it last Sunday when he picked off a Byron Leftwich deep ball to end regulation. It was the first game all season in which McFadden was part of the active roster.

    "That helped me out a lot as far as confidence," he said of the interception. "It shows I can play at this level since I hadn't been active, just sitting and watching. It gives me assurance that I can go out and compete at this level."

    Johnson leads the AFC in receptions (39), receiving yards (561) and touchdown catches (5). Townsend has said this week that Taylor will shadow Johnson, but that hasn't been the Steelers' style over the years, particularly with the fire-zone schemes they prefer.

    McFadden expects to be on the spot, but said he'll have no trouble sleeping the night before the game.

    "As long as I believe and trust in God, I'll be fine," he said.

    REST OF THE (INJURY) STORY

    Five Steelers were upgraded Thursday. In addition to Townsend and Colclough, linebacker Clark Haggans (groin) is now doubtful, and guard Alan Faneca (toe) and defensive end Aaron Smith (back) are now probable.

    Smith injured his back picking up his four-year-old daughter, but said he'll play. Haggans practiced and said a more realistic expectation is for him to return the following week against Baltimore. Wide receivers Hines Ward (hamstring) practiced on a limited basis and said he'll take more reps Friday, and Antwaan Randle El (foot) is expected back Friday.

    Added to the injury list were Williams and tight end Jerame Tuman, who has the flu.

    Cowher was asked if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has regained all the mobility he had prior to injuring his knee in San Diego.

    "Yeah," Cowher said. "Ben appears to be fine."

    Bengals safety Madieu Williams (shoulder) was downgraded to doubtful. He and Haggans are the only two players listed as such for Sunday's game.

    HECK OF A JOB, BROWNIE

    Tim Brown's size and versatility were the reasons the Steelers added the former West Virginia Mountaineer to their practice squad this week.

    Brown (6-4 ½, 318) played tackle, guard and center during his six years at WVU. He was granted a medical redshirt after missing the 2003 season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

    Brown was signed by the Houston Texans after the 2005 draft and played in the preseason before being released. He spent the last month and a half working construction in Harrisburg, where his father moved the family from the Greensburg-Mt. Pleasant area.

    Brown replaced Jim Jones, who'd spent the 2004 season on the Steelers' active roster before being released from this year's practice squad.


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