The 'Big Money' Difference

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers without Heath Miller and Bryant McFadden, but those two will bolster the effort Sunday in the NFL quarterfinals.

PITTSBURGH – Teammates call tight end Heath Miller "Big Money", but the guy chasing that moniker Sunday will be Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden, who'll soon be heading to the free-agent yonder.

"I tell him before every game, ‘Go make some money,'" free safety Ryan Clark said. "I hope he makes tons of money this weekend."

Going from "B-Mac" to "B-Money" wouldn't be a stretch for McFadden, who'd then have something else in common with Miller. As is, they're the two starters who missed the previous game this season against the Chargers. The Steelers could've used Miller, in particular, since they failed to score a touchdown in their 11-10 win.

"Why?" Miller asked with a laugh. "It's not like I've been lighting it up against other teams this year."

Naturally humble, Miller might also be right – to a degree. One of the Steelers' top red-zone threats since being drafted in the first round in 2005, Miller has a career-low three touchdowns this season.

"Statistically you would think he'd have a lot more touchdowns, but he's opened me up a lot," said flanker Hines Ward.

Miller caught a career-high 48 passes this season for 514 yards and the three scores. Because of a sprained ankle at midseason, he missed two games: a loss to the Colts and the touchdown-less win over the Chargers. And he, in turn, was missed by teammates.

"He's definitely a matchup problem," Ward said. "Having him on the field is definitely another dimension they have to worry about. He catches, runs. He has to be accounted for. Last time I had a lot of catches (11-124) in the game, so now if they're keying on me and leaving Heath backside one-on-one, we like our chances.

"They have two great cornerbacks," Ward added, "but I think we have a lot of great wideouts, and then you add in Heath."

The Steelers, it might also be said, have "two great cornerbacks." Ike Taylor's been the top corner all season, but McFadden might be his equal right now. After missing six games in the middle of the season, McFadden's started the last three and regained his stride.

"If he wouldn't have gotten hurt, he would've made the Pro Bowl," said Taylor. "The stuff he does, people don't pay attention to."

What does McFadden mean to the Steelers' defense?

"I've got a Super Bowl ring," Taylor said. "I wouldn't have it if he doesn't bat that pass down in the end zone to Reggie Wayne."

It's been McFadden's signature play throughout his four seasons with the Steelers. He finally cracked the starting lineup for good early this season and has emerged as a second shutdown-type corner opposite Taylor.

The two on Sunday look to blanket Chargers receivers Vincent Jackson and Chris Chambers, who combined to catch only five passes for 46 yards combined in the previous meeting. Last week against the Colts, Chambers caught four passes for 57 yards and Jackson was shut out.

"But if you look throughout the course of the year, Vincent Jackson (59-1098, 18.6) is a guy who goes deep and Chris Chambers (33-462, 14.0) is a route-runner who makes big first-down receptions for them," said McFadden, who'll likely stay on the weak side throughout the game.

"I feel real good," he said. "I'm ready to play January football."

And make some money. Big money.

NOTES – Ben Roethlisberger (concussion) again worked with the first team throughout practice Wednesday. Only Hines Ward was rested. … Chargers Coach Norv Turner said that Jackson will play in spite of being charged with DUI early Tuesday morning.


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