"I feel like I've gotten more comfortable in my stance and my explosion off the ball," said the 6-foot-5, 290-pound rookie out of Oklahoma State. "I had to change it all up to being flat-footed. I'm also using my hands a whole lot more and getting them quicker and directing blockers. I'm making progress."
A flat-footed stance?
"With the flat-footed stance you're moving laterally – upfield, but laterally," McBean explained. "You're not getting off the ball like you're in a speed stance. They don't want that. They want your hands inside while you read and move laterally. I used to get off the ball, hit you in the chest, get off and make tackles."
And now he's learning to take on blockers and allow the linebackers to make plays.
While McBean showed strength and quickness this preseason, he had little technique. He said the transition has been difficult.
"Oh, very hard," he said, "because guys like to go back to what they did in college, stuff that they've known for a long time. But I've grasped it and now I feel comfortable in it."
The Jamaica-born McBean played both tackle and end at Oklahoma State and recorded 25 tackles with 4.5 sacks as a senior. He won't start for the Steelers – Travis Kirschke and Nick Eason will split the job -- but neither did Smith as a rookie in 1999.
The first of Smith's 121 regular-season starts was the opener of his second season. McBean will sit the bench and hope to collect the same scraps that Smith did late in his rookie season: one assist and three appearances in the final three games.
"That's okay," McBean said. "It's a we thing. It's a team game."
SMITH'S SURGERY TODAY
Smith will undergo surgery on his torn right biceps today. He was told that his arm would be in a sling for six weeks.
Smith leads Steelers defensive linemen in solo tackles (36), sacks (3) and fumble recoveries (2). He first noticed the pain on the second series of Sunday's game at New England, but finished the game. Doctors told him he might've been playing with the injury all season, and that the tear could be the result of "a cumulative effect."
Smith was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday. McBean was the obvious replacement since the Arizona Cardinals had contacted the rookie's agent Monday in the hope of signing him off the Steelers' practice squad.
"I wanted to stay here because I've been here the whole time," McBean said. "I feel comfortable here, so I told him I wanted to try this out and see what happens."
THURSDAY INJURY REPORT
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed his second consecutive practice with a sore right shoulder. Trainer John Norwig was in the locker room Sunday night stretching Roethlisberger's arm after the game. Roethlisberger grimaced at the time, but later said his arm was fine.
Also missing practice for the Steelers was backup linebacker Andre Frazier with a groin injury.