What a reunion: CB McFadden rejoins Steelers in draft-day trade

PITTSBURGH -- The NFL draft is supposed to be about the new. New players. New hope for downtrodden teams. The unofficial start to a new season.

Apparently, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't receive the message.

On the final day of the league's inaugural three-day draft, they brought back yet another familiar face for what's already being called the 2010 Steelers Reunion Tour.

Bryant McFadden, a starting cornerback on Pittsburgh's 2008 Super Bowl squad but a flop in Arizona, became the latest ex-Steeler to be brought back by the team. He was reacquired Saturday at a modest cost, a fifth-round pick, and the Steelers also gained a sixth-round pick, which they used on Central Michigan wide receiver Antonio Brown.

Many longtime Steelers -- Joey Porter, Dan Kreider, Clark Haggans, Sean Morey among them -- made the move West to play for former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's Cardinals. McFadden is the first to make the return trip.

"It's a shocking feeling ... It was unexpected," McFadden said. "I got a few phone calls (Friday) and my eyes got opened about the situation. ... It's kind of like, 'Wow.'"

McFadden, who was due $4.75 million next season, agreed to a three-year contract despite not making an interception last season. The Steelers didn't want both projected starting cornerbacks, Ike Taylor and McFadden, playing out their contracts in the same season.

Pittsburgh was expected to land a cornerback during the draft, but certainly not this cornerback.

"He played on two world championship teams here," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We know the player, and we know the person. We followed that in several instances during the offseason, guys who understand what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler."

Once known as a franchise that never brought back players once they left, the Steelers have re-signed wide receiver Antwaan Randle El and inside linebacker Larry Foote and traded for McFadden and quarterback Byron Leftwich since early March. Foote, McFadden and Leftwich also played on the Steelers' Super Bowl-winning team during the 2008 season.

"I thought our reunion would be eight or nine years down the line," McFadden said. "I guess it's coming a little early."

Hmm, what's next, Jerome Bettis making a comeback?

No, the Bus won't return, but the Steelers now have the Diesel.

The most intriguing of Pittsburgh's seven picks Saturday was sixth-rounder Jonathan Dwyer, a productive runner at Georgia Tech in need of polishing. Seen as a possible second- or third-round pick by some scouts, Dwyer experienced one of the steepest freefalls of any selection.

"There are some things he needs to work on," Steelers running backs coach Kirby Wilson said.

Getting into the end zone isn't one of them. Dwyer rushed for 3,329 yards, a 6.4 yards per carry average and 35 touchdowns in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense.

"I was surprised I lasted that long, but I'm glad the Steelers believed in me," Dwyer said.

If nothing else, the Steelers believed in linebackers, too.

They repeatedly passed up obvious needs at cornerback and the defensive line to keep taking linebackers. Even linebackers coach Keith Butler jokingly said, "Contrary to public opinion, I don't have photos of coach Tomlin."

The Steelers chose Jason Worilds of Virginia Tech in the second round, Thaddeus Gibson of Ohio State in the fourth and Stevenson Sylvester of Utah in the sixth. Sylvester, the only projected inside linebacker of the group, briefly met with the Steelers at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and had no idea they might draft him.

"I just filled out a card with my information and sent them a highlight tape, and I guess they liked me," Sylvester said.

With no proven backups behind starters James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, the Steelers felt more urgency to draft outside linebackers than they did inside linebackers. That's one reason why they passed up Penn State linebacker Sean Lee in the second round to choose Worilds.

Pittsburgh also added two wide receivers who thrived in pass-heavy offenses -- SMU's Emmanuel Sanders, a third-round pick, and Brown, who caught a school-record 110 passes last season in the Mid-American Conference.

Goodbye Santonio Holmes, who was cast off to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick. Hello, Brown.

The Steelers also emphasized special teams, picking Worilds, Gibson, Sanders and Brown partly because they can cover kicks. Pittsburgh allowed a league-high four kickoff-return touchdowns last season.

"We hope they're capable kick-coverage men," Tomlin said of the new linebackers. "Then we'll get to see if they're capable of rushing the passer."

The Steelers also chose Tennessee offensive tackle Chris Scott and Clemson cornerback Crezdon Butler in the fifth round and a second Ohio State player, defensive lineman Doug Worthington, in the seventh. Director of football operations Kevin Colbert said that, of any major college team, the Buckeyes' defense is most like the Steelers'.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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