By Teresa Varley
Since he came into the NFL as the St. Louis Rams fourth-round draft pick in 2003, Shaun McDonald has had an idea of what the upcoming season would hold for him.
Whether his role was to back up veterans Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce with the Rams, or start and provide a spark for the Detroit Lions his first season there in 2007, things were defined before the season started.
But so far, heading into the 2009 season, McDonald's role on the Steelers is still up in the air.
"I always knew my role going into camp and stuff like that," said McDonald. "This is a new situation. I'm glad I'm stepping up and hopefully I can keep this up and keep making plays."
McDonald was brought in to compete for the third receiver spot that was vacated when Nate Washington signed with the Tennessee Titans. But he isn't alone in that competition. Second-year receiver Limas Sweed has stepped up this preseason and rookie Mike Wallace is showing a lot of potential.
But McDonald isn't one to look over his shoulder, to track receptions made by others or start doing the math in his head about how many receivers will make the final roster. He knows his focus has to be on what he does, he can't worry about what others are doing.
"I'm kind of worried about what I can do," said McDonald. "I know I can play. But do I fit in with what they're trying to do? I just have to show what I can do and hopefully I fit in with what they're trying to do."
Fitting in isn't always an easy task as a free agent, especially coming from the worst team in the NFL, the 0-16 Detroit Lions, to a Super Bowl champion.
"They have a lot of guys who have been here and won Super Bowl rings," said McDonald. "You have to go out there and prove yourself every day and that's what I'm trying to do so I can get me a spot."
McDonald loves the feeling of confidence that exudes in the Steelers locker room, the feeling that the team expects to go out and win every week, something that lacked in Detroit.
"Just looking in the locker room at the guys who are around, you got Troy (Polamalu) back there, Ryan Clark, guys you hear about every week making plays," said McDonald. "You just have to worry about doing your own job."
With two preseason games remaining every play is a key for McDonald. He is hoping this week to get his shot in the return game and wants to make sure he gets his hands on anything that comes his way.
"I have to keep making plays, keep doing the right thing, don't make any mental errors, get into the play book and know that 100 percent," said McDonald. "All you can do is your job. If you're getting open but you're not getting the ball, they'll still see you're getting open and you're doing the right stuff and hopefully they'll like that.
"We have a lot of guys for that receiver spot; there are a lot of guys competing for it. You have to play good every week if you want to get that spot."