McBriar Healthy After Two Years

Mat McBriar (Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

PITTSBURGH -- Mat McBriar has come back to Pro Bowl heights after one injury, so he expects big things this time as he recovers from his most recent, and more severe, injury.

In October of 2008 -- with a 2006 Pro Bowl under his belt -- McBriar broke his kicking foot during a blocked punt and was put on injured reserve.

He had rung up a 49-yard gross average and a 38.8 net in those four-plus seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, but he worked his way back to Pro Bowl form in 2010.

His numbers dipped in 2011 and late that season a cyst was found inside the peroneal nerve of his left leg, and it was removed as best as possible. But he developed "drop foot" as a result, and is just now finishing a two-year fight -- the initial prognosis -- to regain full leg strength.

"I've basically been waiting for the nerve to regenerate, more and more and more. It feels great," said McBriar. "And actually, what really helped was getting done with last season. That time off helped me a lot."

After eight seasons with the Cowboys, McBriar signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in late September of 2012. His numbers dropped to 43.8/36.1 as he struggled through the problems with his plant foot.

"I really didn't play very well last year," he said. "I just was still getting healthier. My performance dropped off. I really wasn't surprised there wasn't a whole lot of interest once the season got finished with, but I knew that I was going to continue getting healthier."

Ranked near the top of most team's free-agent boards as this season has been underway, McBriar was finally signed by the Steelers this week to replace Zoltan Mesko.

"I've been working really hard since the start of the season," McBriar said. "I've just been patiently waiting for a shot. It was Great to hear from the team on Monday. I feel like I am in good shape, kicking-wise. I've been kicking a lot. I kicked pretty well."

McBriar, 34, was born in Melbourne, Australia, and played Australian rules football in high school. He attended Deakin University for a year and a half before catching the eye of former NFL punter and compatriot Darren Bennett at a kicking competition.

"He ended up helping me," McBriar said. "I got to the University of Hawaii because of him. He called his old coach, June Jones, and that's sort of that. He let me walk on back in 2000."

McBriar went from Hawaii to the Denver Broncos as an undrafted rookie in 2003, was traded to the Seattle Seahawks that August, was cut before the season began, and later signed with the Cowboys' practice squad. McBriar's career took off in 2004 and he's looking to add a Part II to his resume here in Pittsburgh.

"There is a lot of tradition here," he said. "You just get that sense when you walk in the door. Football runs deep here in Pittsburgh. I'm going to do as well as I can for the team."

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