Notebook: McFadden prepared for move

Deshea Townsend and Kendall Simmons returned to practice, but Coach Bill Cowher wouldn't say they've returned to the starting lineup. Bryant McFadden will play either way, and the Falcons will test him out.

PITTSBURGH – The Atlanta Falcons went into last Sunday's game against the New York Giants with a plan to improve their woeful red-zone production: They practiced throwing more fades to their athletic trio of first-round wide receivers.

But the Falcons didn't have a chance to throw a fade. They turned the ball over in their only venture inside the Giants' 20 and have scored only three touchdowns in 17 red-zone attempts this season. And they're still looking to put their work on fade passes into action.

"They'll probably get a chance this week," said Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden. "That's probably a great detail for me to focus on."

McFadden is preparing for this week's game as if he's the starter. And he may be. Coach Bill Cowher said Thursday that he hadn't made up his mind. Either way, it's clear the second-round pick in 2005 is being eased into the right cornerback position held down by Deshea Townsend since the second half of the 2003 season. McFadden is bigger and more aggressive than Townsend, and Townsend, who missed the previous week of practice with a hamstring injury, fits as the team's dime cornerback.

Townsend stood out last Sunday in the limited role of dime back. McFadden, meanwhile, shrugged off two pass interference penalties to come away with an interception, his first of the season and second of his career.

"I did pretty good," said the 6-0, 190-pound McFadden. "It's always a good thing when you can get an interception. I had some tough calls in the red zone but that's just part of playing cornerback."

With the Steelers leading by 38-7 early in the fourth quarter, McFadden was called for pass interference at the Pittsburgh 3. Two plays later he was called for interference in the end zone. But even with a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, the Chiefs couldn't punch it in.

McFadden didn't agree with the calls, and neither did all of the officials. "The back judge didn't call it," McFadden said. "The side judge did and the side judge said it was a tough situation he was put in. He told me what he thought he saw and the back judge told me it was pretty good coverage. I wasn't [peeved] off about it, but if they would've scored I would've been."

The calls didn't force McFadden to back off. He broke up a third-down pass at the goal line and, on the Chiefs' final possession, came away with an interception while in tight, aggressive coverage. The two interference calls didn't quench his aggressiveness.

"That's how I've been playing since I was in high school and I can't really let that dictate how I play because then I wouldn't be myself," he said. "Coach told me to continue to do what I do, be aggressive to the ball. That's what got me to this point."

At this point, Townsend is easing his way through the practice week. Cowher said Thursday that even if Townsend and right guard Kendall Simmons are healthy enough to play, he's not sure if they would return as starters. But even if McFadden only plays on passing downs, he's a likely target in the red zone. Ashley Lelie (6-3), Michael Jenkins (6-4) and Roddy White (6-0) have combined to catch only 29 passes for 391 yards and one touchdown this season, but they have the athletic ability to make the play.

"They just haven't gotten into the good chemistry everyone's looking for," McFadden said. "You can't slack on any of them because the numbers don't tell what they're actually doing. They're very rangy so you have to pay attention to details and not slack off."

ON THE BOMB THREAT

* Cowher: "The Homeland Security would not allow us to go down there if there was any threat at all. Being that Tom Ridge is running that thing, I know he's a Steeler fan so I feel pretty good about that."

* Clark Haggans: "Bush will take care of it."

* Larry Foote: "Oh, yeah, Bush will take care of it. That's my man."

* Casey Hampton: "It's a good thing it came out. That means the security will be better. I'd have been worried if it was the day of when we first heard about it."

* Jeff Hartings: "I've always felt that if they really wanted to hit the heart and soul of America, it's our money and our sports. They already hit our money. After that, terrorism is just about killing people, and where can you kill the most people? At a sporting event. So I've been hoping they've been taking it seriously all the time."

INJURY REPORT

Simmons (foot) returned to practice and was upgraded to probable. LB James Harrison (out/ankle), LB Joey Porter (doubtful/hamstring), WR Willie Reid (doubtful/foot) and FB Dan Kreider (probable/ankle) all sat out of Thursday's practice.

Falcons DT Grady Jackson (probable/knee) returned to practice. Sitting out were DE John Abraham (questionable/groin), DT Roderick Coleman (questionable/toe), reserve OT Quinn Ojinnaka (questionable/ankle) and DE Patrick Kerney (probable/hamstring).


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