Bad break

PITTSBURGH - Milk producers and dairy farmers might want to hire Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden as a spokesman.

PITTSBURGH - Milk producers and dairy farmers might want to hire Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden as a spokesman.

McFadden suffered a broken right forearm Oct. 19 in the Steelers' 38-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

When the Steelers (8-3) play the New England Patriots (7-4) Sunday at Gillette Stadium, McFadden could be back in the lineup, six weeks after the break.

What's McFadden's secret to quick bone regrowth?

"Dealing with a bone issue, there's nothing I can do, really, to make a bone heal any faster," McFadden said. "I just have to be patient and drink as much milk as I can and take calcium pills."

The Steelers could use a healthy McFadden against the Patriots, who threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns against them in a 34-13 victory at New England last season.

But will he?

McFadden will be a free agent at the end of the season and is concerned about his future if he returns too early and reinjures the arm.

"If it's a situation where I don't have to worry about having a relapse or anything of that nature, it will be an easy choice for me to play," McFadden said. "If it's something where I'm too early on my time frame and something happens, that's something else I have to think about also."

Considering the six-year contract signed by Carolina's Chris Gamble Thursday – worth more than $50 million – McFadden's got a lot on his mind. Gamble's resume is larger than that of McFadden, but the bar for free agent cornerbacks has been set high.

But the Steelers could use both McFadden and Deshea Townsend, who has also practiced all this week, back in the lineup Sunday.

The Patriots don't have Tom Brady leading their offense. Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in New England's first game. But backup Matt Cassel has thrown for more than 400 yards in each of his last two games and has Pro Bowl receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker to challenge a defense.

Without McFadden and Townsend, the Steelers would go up against the Patriots with a corner trio of Ike Taylor, second-year pro William Gay and veteran Fernando Bryant. Bryant, who was cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp, has been with the Steelers for just three weeks.

The Steelers are allowing an NFL-low 168.8 yards passing per game.

"Cassel is doing an awesome job; he has thrown for over 400 yards the past couple of weeks," said Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. "He is spreading the ball around to a variety of receivers, really doing a nice job of running their offense in its many forms."

One of those forms has been to spread the Steelers out and throw the ball on nearly every down. The Patriots have had similar confidence in Cassel, who has thrown 94 passes in the past two games.

"I think it's obvious they've got a great deal of confidence in what this young man is doing for them and yes, they're willing to do whatever it is they deem necessary for them to win," Tomlin said when asked if he thinks the Steelers will see the spread offense this week.

If McFadden is cleared by team doctors to play, it won't take him long to get ready. He's been practicing the past two weeks.

His only concession to the injury would be wearing a protective shell on his right forearm.

"It would be different if it was something with my legs or my foot and I wasn't able to run," McFadden said. "But I've been able to run and get reps and do everything I would have done if I wasn't hurt. The most important thing is just being able to keep mentally sound within the games and the reps."

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.

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