As you probably already know by now, I am very high on Marshall McFadden, the Pittsburgh Steelers young inside linebacker out of South Carolina State and it appears that the rookie camp held last weekend did him a world of good as he prepares to do battle in training camp this year for a spot on the 53 man roster.
McFadden admitted over the weekend that he struggled grasping things last year in rookie camp, but that this year the refresher course helped him a ton.
"When I came in last year during rookie minicamp I was struggling to understand things because it was all so new to me," said McFadden, who led the Steelers last preseason in total tackles.
"Coming in this year and taking that step again, it was an introduction again. It was great for me because I got a better understanding because I had a year to develop. My mind is clear enough to understand it this year. It was a great refresher for me."
McFadden, who will more than likely be battling former fifth-round draft pick Stevenson Sylvester and free agent additions Brian Rolle and Kion Wilson for a backup inside linebacker spot on the roster this offseason, knows that he must play faster this year and that the rookie camp is a spring board to making that happen.
"I am classified as someone that has to take a big step this year," said McFadden. "Once the OTAs start it can do nothing but help me by knowing what to do, playing faster, knowing where to be, where to go. This was perfect for it."
McFadden also went on to say that getting more time with the defensive coaches in rookie camp is also a big plus in helping further his development..
"I can gain a real understanding for our plays, listening to Coach (Keith) Butler and Coach (Dick) LeBeau running through the fundamentals and helping with what I was struggling with last year," said McFadden. "The most important thing is just understanding our plays, that we do things a certain way. It’s good when you get the opportunity to talk to your coach. When the older guys get here a lot of attention goes to them. During the rookie minicamp the coaches can spend more time with the younger guys and get a better feel for you. It makes you feel a lot more comfortable."
During his talk with the media following the selection of Florida State linebacker Vince Williams in the sixth-round, linebackers coach Keith Butler was straight forward with his response when asked if 2013 was indeed a make or break year for Sylvester.
"No doubt for him, said Butler "He knows that. That is something I talked to him about at the end of the season."
With Sylvester being sidelined by a knee injury last year during the preseason, McFadden wound up being the beneficiary of extra snaps as a result. He played both the BUCK and the MACK positions late in games and also called the defense in addition. Sylvester, however, has one thing going for him that McFadden doesn\'t and that\'s regular season game playing experience on defense.
The Steelers chose not to restricted tender Sylvester during the offseason, but did sign him back for the minimum several weeks ago. That was a sure sign that he has no guarantees heading into his fourth season.
If McFadden is going to win a roster spot this year, he must pick up right where left off last preseason. In addition, his must outplay all of the other inside linebackers that he will be competing against on special teams. As we sit here in May, I like his chances of being able to accomplish that.