Notebook: McFadden a quiet hero

Bryant McFadden was picked on by the Indianapolis Colts, but came away unscathed. It one of many stories in a game chock full of them. Here are some of the tales:

PITTSBURGH -- Lost in the shuffle of big plays, blown calls and second guesses were the plays made by Steelers rookie cornerback Bryant McFadden prior to Mike Vanderjagt's 46-yard field-goal attempt.

On second-and-2 from the Pittsburgh 28, the Colts isolated wide receiver Reggie Wayne on the second-round draft pick, and Peyton Manning sent both players into the end zone. Wayne is the Colts' No. 2 receiver and he's rising with a bullet. He led the team with 83 catches this season and was zeroing in on a perfect pass from Manning that would've given the Colts a 4-point lead with 31 seconds left.

"He attacks the ball – very physical and aggressive," said McFadden. "I knew that when the ball was in the air. I felt him coming and I just wanted to continue to scrap at the ball until I made sure he didn't have it."

McFadden broke it up not once but twice, and didn't even consider pass interference, which wasn't called.

"I basically did everything you could do from a corner standpoint," McFadden said. "I looked at the ball and the ball got close and I started to attack the ball for myself, so I really wasn't focusing on the pass interference because I felt as though I was in good position."

On the next play, on third-and-2, Manning isolated Wayne on McFadden again, and hoped to gain about 15 yards over the middle. But Manning underthrew Wayne and McFadden nearly made a diving interception. Vanderjagt, of course, missed badly on the next snap.

"I had a feeling he was going to try to come at me, similar to the Jacksonville game and that's what Peyton wanted to do," McFadden said. "I just came out and tried to fight to the end."

Against Jacksonville, in his first pro action, McFadden intercepted a deep pass to send the game into overtime. He's moved past Ricardo Colclough to become the Steelers' third cornerback.

Technically speaking, McFadden enters the game as the nickel back, but takes the wide receiver while Deshea Townsend moves inside as the true nickel back.

McFadden said he's happy the team is an underdog this Sunday at Denver in the AFC Championship game.

"We always try to prove the media wrong," he said. "Everybody was counting against us. I was watching CBS and the guys were saying that for us to beat the Colts we'd need an outer-body experience. Man, that's a bold statement."

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McFadden wasn't on the field for Jerome Bettis's fumble at the goal line. Most of the fleetest Steelers weren't.

"We were in our goal-line package," McFadden said, "and the majority of the fastest guys were on the sideline."

Of course, Ben Roethlisberger made the tackle of Nick Harper, who was on his way to making the most significant play in Pittsburgh Steelers history since the Immaculate Reception.

Most of the reporters at that game in 1972 missed the play because they were on their way to the locker room. The same thing happened Sunday and many reporters missed Bettis's fumble.

"I always shake my head at the other guys who leave early, but I went down early this time," said one veteran reporter from Pittsburgh. "I left right after Porter's second sack."

The reporter described descending a longer set of stairways than those at Heinz Field. When he got to the bottom, he, along with several other members of the media, saw Colts fans watching a TV in the bowels of the stadium. And then the fans started cheering.

"What the hell's going on?" the reporter asked. A fan told him the Colts had the ball at the 30.

"I looked and saw it was the STEELERS' 30 and I couldn't believe it," he said. "I asked another Pittsburgh guy what happened and he said he heard that Willie Parker had fumbled. I said, Willie Parker? Is Cowher NUTS?"

The reporter eventually got the facts straight, and then watched the replays unfold as he sat in the conference room waiting for Bill Cowher.

"Now I know how The Chief and Cope and all those guys felt back in 1972," the reporter said.

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Ike Taylor: "Those Steelers fans be everywhere. I don't know where they're coming from but they be everywhere."

Hines Ward: "Let's try to break history. It's one game from the Super Bowl. If that doesn't get you excited to go out and play football, then you're in the wrong business."

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Joey Porter deserves his own section, just for posterity's sake. Here's what the Steelers' emotional leader said after the game:

• "They don't play physical football. They play great football. What they do with their schemes, it's a great way to attack people. But now, if you're going to compare that to how we play truly smash-mouth football -- you all know Pittsburgh football -- they don't play that. They tried to claim they did that to us last time and I didn't agree."

• "We were watching a little San Diego, how they were blocking the guards, and Merriman kept pushing him back into the quarterback. We tried it. It was something they tried to block and they couldn't stop it."

• "The world wanted Indy to win so bad, they were going to do whatever they had to do, man. It was like the 9-11 year, when they wanted the Patriots to win it for the world, for the Patriotic of the world, that's what they wanted for Indy today. They wanted Indy to win that game, no matter what happened. They were going to give them all the opportunities in the world to do it."

• "At a point, I didn't think the refs were going to let us get out of here with a victory. But we got out of here with a victory."

• "Play with a chip on your shoulder and be mad. That's when we play our best football. We play our best football when we're pissed off and we're in a pissed-off mindset right now and that's why we're playing the way we're playing."

• "It's just the way we come in here right now. I think it makes us focus more as a team because they're counting us out. You know what I mean? The whole world is counting us out. When they do us like that, they give you that extra motivation to crack down on the silly stuff. It makes you want it that much more."

• "They don't like Pittsburgh, that's the truth. It's a great town. I'm just telling you what they don't like. They make it seem like they don't play football, ‘they just bully people.' They have all kinds of tactics to try to knock us. It's so sweet to come out with a victory like this."


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