Today, on 93.7 The Zone, radio host John Steigerwald had former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart on as a guest to discuss his time as a Steeler and the acquisitions Jerome Bettis made that Stewart was set up to fail by the Steelers coaching staff and was not used properly.
Jeromes Book: Kordell was set up to fail in 2002:
Kordells response: Kordell was professional in the interview and in response to that particular question, he says he respected Cowhers decision by couldn’t believe Cowher would give up on him three games into season after taking the team to the AFC Championship the year before.
My Take: I did not agree with the decision at the time and i still believe Kordell gave them the best chance to win in 02. The decision to enter Maddox into the Cleveland game was the right decision but Kordell should have started the following week against New Orleans.
Jeromes Book: Cowher didn’t gameplan to Kordells strengths
Kordells Response: Kordells response was that his best seasons were under offensive coordinators Chan Gailey in 1997 and 2001 under Mike Mularkey. Two coordinators that played to Kordells strengths. Kordell did not speak to highly about offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Mentioned in the interview, Steigerwald says he remembers one game when Kordell broke off a 38 yard TD run. When Kordell came to the sidelines, he picked up the phone and was scolded by Gilbride for running. Steigerwald and Kordell each brought up that Kordell was best used when he was running and during play action. It was also pointed out by Steigerwald, there was one game where Steigerwald counted a total of three times that the Steelers ran a play-action during the Gilbride era.
Jeromes Book: In 2002 if the players would have taken a poll on who should be the starter, the majority of players would have picked Kordell because he gave the team the best chance to win.
Steigerwalds take: Steigerwald brought up the two games Kordell started after Tommy Turnover was knocked out of the Tennessee game. Kordell won both games and played very well. Week 12 vs Cincinnatti: 12 cin 22 – 26 – 236yds (1td- 0int) (11rushes 40yds). Week 13 vs Jacksonville:13 jax 16 – 26 – 202yds (0td 1int) (12rushes 84yds 1td).
Kordells response: Kordell said he was told that Tommy Maddox would not lose his starting job to injury but according to Kordell, Mike Mularky told him that if Maddox struggled out of the game, the Steelers would go back to Kordell. As we all know that did not happen and Kordell said Cowher never gave him a response as to why he stuck with Maddox.
The Last Word: Along with John Steigerwald i may be on of the few fans who felt Kordell was a better choice than Tommy Maddox. Kordell was given every opportunity but i agree with Bettis that he wasn’t given a opportunity to succeed. Kevin Gilbride was the worst possible option to be a offensive coordinator in a offense where the quarterbacks main asset was making plays with his legs when the pocket broke down. Kordells greatest asset was he had unbelievable ability to make plays with his legs when plays broke down. His downfall was when he tried to be a great pocket passer versus using the gifts he had. I’m not going to put all the blame on Gilbride but everyone who followed the Steelers in the late 90’s knew Gilbride tried to make Kordell a pocket passer. It’s Kordells fault just as much as Gilbrides but Gilbride was detrimental to his development. Near the end of the 2000 season before Gilbrides dismissal, Cowher finally saw the light and was calling the offensive plays. Was Kordell a great quarterback? Absolutely not but he was a much better quarterback than Tommy Maddox, Kent Graham and Mike Tomzack. The guy did win games. In the end Stewart was no doubt a very gifted athlete who could still be playing if he would have made the switch to wide receiver. Some people, including Steelers President Dan Rooney, speculated that had Stewart remained in the “slash” role, he could have been a superstar.