Stewart starts, end of debate

Pittsburgh Steelers

September 07, 2001

For a change, there is little controversy surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers' quarterback situation.

In fact, there is more talk about the team's new Heinz Field -- which replaces legendary Three Rivers Stadium -- than there is about the man who will attempt to revamp the passing game. Fans, Steelers coach Bill Cowher and the players have come to accept that, for better or worse, Kordell Stewart is the starter.

Last year's Week 1 starter, Kent Graham, is gone. So is former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, replaced by Mike Mularkey. Mularkey will inherit a relaxed Stewart, who knows no suitable alternative is waiting in the wings.

"You never really know where you are," Stewart said of his past quarterback controversies. "You throw a pass and you wonder if the other guy threw a better one. ... You wonder what the coaches are thinking.

"I've never been a good practice player, and I never liked leaving it up to the coaches to decide. You want it to be decided on the field."

Stewart is playing under his fifth offensive coordinator since joining the Steelers. Mularkey is simplifying the attack and will allow Stewart to become more of the multidimensional threat he was early in his career. In other words, if option one is not there, go to option two. If that's not there, take off.

"It's a big year for Kordell," Cowher said. "I thought he took some steps last year and he has taken hold of the system. We're going to be successful on offense as long as our quarterback is successful."

Much of the success, however, will depend on receivers Troy Edwards (1999) and Plaxico Burress (2000) living up to their first-round draft status.

"Once these guys get acclimated, you'll see guys making plays," Stewart said.

Steelers vs. Ravens

Key for Ravens: Attack the Steelers' secondary. Cornerbacks Chad Scott and Dewayne Washington are adequate but vulnerable to getting beat deep, especially now with Elvis Grbac at quarterback.

Biggest headache: Kordell Stewart. Even when he is struggling against every team in the league, Stewart seems to find a way to beat the Ravens by making big plays, especially in Baltimore. where he is 4-0 since 1997.

Stat to watch: Stewart did not throw an interception in three of his last five games last year. The Steelers won four of those five games.

Brian Billick's impression: "They are feeling very good about themselves. They finished the 2000 season strong. They've committed to Kordell, and with the athletes around him stepping it up, they also are going to be a team to challenge very heavily for the playoffs."

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