Kent Graham and Tommy Maddox looked good against Detroit, battling Martin for backup spot.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
PITTSBURGH -- The Steelers are no closer today to answering their million-dollar question -- who will be quarterback Kordell Stewart's backup?
The status of Kent Graham, who beat out Stewart as the Steelers starter in the 2000 preseason, remains a mystery for 2001.
Stewart has the starting job locked up and second-year man Tee Martin will make the team, either as the No. 2 man or the third stringer.
Martin's position depends on whether Graham or free-agent hopeful Tommy Maddox makes the team.
Good games: Saturday, both Maddox and Graham played well in the Steelers' 20-7 exhibition win over the Detroit Lions.
Maddox completed 11 of 17 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.
Graham completed four of five passes for 30 yards during mop-up time. One drive should have produced a score, but Kris Brown missed a 24-yard field goal when the ball bounced off the left upright.
One factor that could make a difference: Graham's salary is about $1 million more than what Maddox makes.
Steelers coach Bill Cowher said neither Graham nor Maddox, the MVP of the defunct XFL, were playing for their jobs Saturday.
"When we make our cuts on Tuesday, it won't involve any of our quarterbacks," Cowher said.
Playing time: That means Cowher and offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey will try to find playing time for both in Thursday's exhibition game against the Buffalo Bills.
The final decision will be made by Labor Day.
Against the Lions, the Steelers took a long look at Maddox, who played well against the Falcons three weeks ago and miserably against the Vikings last week.
Maddox said he doesn't know how much his strong performance will weigh when the final cut is made.
"I looked at it as an opportunity to play," Maddox said. "Whatever was going to happen was going to happen."
Maddox's best pass came late in the third quarter when he zipped the ball to wide receiver Bobby Shaw over the middle for a 44-yard pickup to the Lions' 1.
"The pass down the seam to Bobby was just a great route by him," Maddox said. "It was third-and-long and he kind of got man coverage and made a great move on [cornerback Robert Bailey]. And I think that got us going.
"He made a great run after the catch to get us down to the 1."
Back to earth: But the Steelers' celebrated a little too much, earning a 5-yard delay of game penalty. Maddox threw two incomplete passes, then hit Troy Edwards for a 3-yard pickup on third-and-goal.
"I messed up a little bit on the delay of game when we couldn't get [the play] in, but we got points there and we came back on the next drive with a long drive and we got it into the end zone," Maddox said.
To the surprise of many who thought Graham would come on late in the third quarter, Cowher stuck with Maddox.
The former UCLA quarterback took advantage of the extra playing time with a 33-yard sideline pass to wide receiver Demetrius Brown for the Steelers' second touchdown and 20-0 lead with 10 minutes to play.
"[Brown] beat the [cornerback] off the line and the safety stayed inside because we had [three receivers] to the left," Maddox said.
How well did he do?
"I don't know," Maddox said. "It was fun, I'll say that. It was fun to move the ball and fun to get into the end zone again. We'll see what happens."
Another chance: Graham admitted he would have liked to get in sooner, "but that's the way preseason games go. I've been practicing well and wanted another chance to get out there.
"Today, I thought I played as well as all the other quarterbacks," the former Ohio State quarterback said.
Asked if he thought he would play in the third quarter, Graham said he wasn't sure.
"I thought I might have a shot to do that [because] Tommy went in at the end of the second quarter, but it didn't play out that way," Graham said.
"You take what you can get and do the best you can with it," Graham said. "And I think I did a good job with what was given."