Cowher leans toward Stewart
But the Steelers coach will think about starting Tommy Maddox.
VINDICATOR STAFF REPORT
PITTSBURGH -- In just a few minutes of playing time, Tommy Maddox settled one Steelers quarterback controversy, then ignited another, engineering the come-from-behind, overtime victory.
After Maddox completed 11-of-13 passes for 122 yards and produced two scoring drives, Steelers coach Bill Cowher said he's leaning toward starting Kordell Stewart next Sunday in New Orleans.
"I am in no position right now to name a starting quarterback," said Cowher.
The Steelers forced overtime when Maddox connected with wide receiver Plaxico Burress for a 10-yard touchdown strike with 1:58 remaining in regulation.
But Maddox came close to joining Stewart as an object of the fans' wrath when his first pass of overtime was intercepted. However, Maddox received another chance when the Browns couldn't capitalize, and the 31-year-old journeyman, who joined the Steelers last year, rode to the rescue by completing his final five passes to set up Todd Peterson's game-winning field goal.
"It was a great opportunity for me," said Maddox, who was voted most valuable player in the XFL and also played in the arena league. "Unfortunately in this game, it comes at someone else's expense. I have nothing but respect for [Stewart] and I know how hard the position is."
Cowher compared Maddox relieving Stewart as to what Braves ace reliever John Smoltz sometimes does for Tom Glavine.
"Kordell played well until the last couple of series," said Cowher who lifted his starter after an interception in the end zone early in the fourth quarter. "I don't think that he played totally poorly.
"We needed something," Cowher said of the 13-6 deficit. "We were going to have to throw. Tommy has been good in those positions."
Stewart completed 15-of-25 passes for 143 yards and rushed for 30 yards on seven tries.
"Tommy came in and did an awesome job," Stewart said. "He came in and gave the team a spark.
"As far as I know, I'm the starting quarterback of this football team," the eight-year veteran said. "How Coach Cowher handles it is how he handles it.
"It would be good to know who is going to be the starter," said Stewart, who lost his starting job for the final five games of the 1999 season. "Let's be a man about it and call it out. And if it's Tommy, I'm not going to be shy, frustrated or upset."
The Steelers' win came despite several special teams mistakes, including a blocked punt in the fourth quarter that set up the Browns' go-ahead touchdown.
A Stewart fumble at the Cleveland 2 also forced the Steelers to settle for a first-half field goal.
Not everyone sees a quarterback controversy.
"I don't think it caused [any] turmoil at all," said Burress. " If you put Antwaan Randle El back there, it wouldn't matter."