Steelers' Stewart is poised, then praised Cowher applauds QB in first playoff start

AFC notebook

January 04, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers were concerned about how quarterback Kordell Stewart would hold up in his first NFL playoff start yesterday, but he got high marks from coach Bill Cowher and teammates.

Stewart completed 14 of 31 passes for 134 yards, with one interception, but did most of his damage rushing, totaling 68 yards on 11 carries. Stewart had the game's only touchdown, a 40-yard run around left end with 9: 49 left in the first quarter.

"I thought he did fine," Cowher said. "Of course, I don't think I would have expected anything else. It's just another game for him. I know there are big games, but he has played in some big games. He played in the Super Bowl. I know it's different as a quarterback. He's got a look in his eye. He is not going to get caught up in any situation, regardless of what unfolds. If he doesn't play well, it's not because it's a playoff game or all the things that are at stake."

"Kordell did a nice job," said Steelers receiver Yancey Thigpen. "When the running game was struggling, he had some big runs on the perimeter. He put a lot of pressure on New England, not just with his arm but his legs as well."

Stewart wasn't impressed with himself.

"Individually, I haven't done anything yet," he said. "We've gotten far as a team, but we haven't gotten to where we want to be. And I, for sure, haven't gotten to where I want to be yet. We won today and that's good, but I'm not satisfied. I'm nowhere near satisfied. We still have two more games to play."

Great Scott

Former University of Maryland cornerback Chad Scott, the Steelers' top draft pick last April, played perhaps his best game of the season yesterday.

Scott led the Steelers with eight tackles, knocked down three passes and intercepted Drew Bledsoe on the Patriots' first series to set up Stewart's touchdown.

"The coaches and the players didn't let me forget that this week they'd be coming after me," said Scott, who had his first career interception. "My first goal was not to get beat deep, to keep everything in front and make the play.

"I think I had a lot of confidence before, but to hold New England without a touchdown and to come up with some big plays today, maybe teams will think twice about trying to pick on me so often. But if they do, I know I'm ready now."

Scott was just one of several players with Maryland connections in yesterday's game. Patriots return specialist David Meggett is from Towson State and New England left guard Max Lane played at Navy. Pittsburgh cornerback J. B. Brown is a graduate of Maryland, and Steelers punter Josh Miller played for the CFL's Baltimore Stallions.

Focus on concentrating

A lot of the Steelers will huddle around their TV sets today to watch the Denver-Kansas City matchup. Pittsburgh players would like to play at home (they'll be the hosts next week if the Broncos win), but they're just happy to play in the AFC title game for the third time in four years.

"It's going to be fun," said nose guard Joel Steed. "Right now, we'll play anybody, anywhere. Just bring them on."

"We'll be focused on whoever we play," linebacker Levon Kirkland said. "We have tremendous resolve and it's hard to put your finger on it. For example, the 1994 team was our most talented team but it wasn't focused. Too much rap video talk TTC and all that stuff. This team is the most focused since I've been here."

Clutch punting

Miller punted nine times for an average of 32.7 yesterday, and some of his weaker efforts early in the game drew the wrath of Cow- her and boos from fans. Again.

But Miller's last two punts in the fourth quarter landed at the

New England 4 to pin down the Patriots.

"Overall, he did a good job, especially at the end when we needed him," said Cowher. "That was after some discussion."

Miller said: "No matter what happens or what is said, I just try to do my job and enjoy it as long as possible. You never know what the future holds."

Pub Date: 1/04/98

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