Scott straightens his learning curve Cornerback: Chad Scott, the Steelers' surprise first-round pick from Maryland, has been a stunning addition to Pittsburgh's defense.

January 07, 1998|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

PITTSBURGH -- Minutes after the Pittsburgh Steelers had beaten the New England Patriots, 7-6, Saturday in an AFC semifinal, a media horde was hanging around the locker of Steelers cornerback Chad Scott.

Again.

Only this time, they didn't want to ask him how he was beaten on a post or quick-out pattern. And there were no questions about a sprained right ankle that had bothered him early in the season or why it took so long for him to move into the starting lineup.

Scott, a former player at Towson State and the University of Maryland who was the Steelers' No. 1 draft pick last April, was one of the stars of the game. His first career interception set up the only touchdown, a 40-yard run by quarterback Kordell Stewart. He also led the Steelers in tackles with eight and knocked down three passes.

"I knew they were going to be coming at me," Scott said. "My teammates kept reminding me of that all week. Maybe I proved to some people that doubted me that I could play in this league. I feel that eventually I can be one of the better cornerbacks in this league.

"But I also know that I shouldn't get too excited and keep everything in perspective. Because I know another team is going to be throwing on me next week."

That team is the Denver Broncos, the receivers are Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey, and the quarterback is John Elway. But when Elway watches Scott on video this week, he will see a much different player from the one who started the season.

"Chad may have had some tough games, but he wasn't going to become a passive player because of a couple of plays that he may have gotten burnt on," Steelers coach Bill Cowher said. "He's got a mentality to play out there. With him and Carnell Lake out there now, that's been a formula that's been pretty good to us."

Lake said he understands what Scott has gone through.

"Next to quarterback, cornerback is the hardest position to play as a rookie," Lake said. "A lot of the rookies don't sometimes see three- or four-receiver sets in college, so there is a transition that may take as long as two years. Chad, though, has caught on a lot faster than most. A lot of people have tried to pick on him, but he has done an outstanding job."

There has been a lot of doubt about Scott since he left Maryland. Some pro scouts thought he was too slow to play cornerback and projected him as a safety and a late-round pick.

But the Steelers took Scott with the 24th pick in the first round, hoping he could replace cornerbacks Rod Woodson, Deon Figures and Willie Williams, who had departed as free agents. Scott, though, missed three games with a sprained right ankle and then came off the bench to play in the next four.

Scott has started the past eight, and the Steelers are 6-2.

"When I wasn't playing, that gave me a chance to sit back and watch," he said. "I kept my eye on the left cornerback position, and that's where they put me back in. That was also the same side I played in college. I admit I struggled some early, but I think I'm getting back every week. I'm no longer a rookie. My first season is over."

Well, not yet. Elway was the AFC's fourth-leading passer during the regular season, completing 280 of 502 passes for 3,635 yards and 27 touchdowns. Smith had 70 receptions for 1,180 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Scott will need another major effort. "The key in this league is consistency," he said. "I've been that way during most of the regular season. Now, it's time to turn it up another notch."

NFL playoffs

Sunday's games

AFC championship

Denver (-1) at

Pittsburgh,

12: 30 p.m., chs. 11, 4

NFC championship

Green Bay at

San Francisco (pick),

4 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Super Bowl

At San Diego, Jan. 25,

6 p.m., chs, 11, 4

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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