Contract talks sped up after Jeff Blake signed with the Arizona Cardinals, which left the Bears as the only looking for a starting quarterback. Despite the drawn out process Stewart wanted to come to Chicago all along. According to GM Jerry Angelo it was Stewart that asked for a short-term deal.
The 2001 Pro Bowler joins the Bears after spending his first eight NFL seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Originally selected in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft, Stewart owns a lifetime record of 46-30 as Pittsburgh's starting quarterback and never missed a game due to injury, starting all 16 games at quarterback three times during his career.
"(Stewart) He's got a lot of experience and I said from the onset the experience was probably more important to me then the record, but twofold he brings a pretty good record to the field as well," Angelo said.
The 6-1, 217-pounder became the Steelers starting quarterback in 1997 and led the team to the AFC Championship Game that year, tossing a career-high 21 touchdowns and rushing for another 11 to earn Pro Bowl alternate status. He has also helped the Steelers to the AFC Championship Game in 2001.
Stewart leaves Pittsburgh as the franchise's second-leading passer of all-time with 13,328 career yards while completing 1,190 of 2,107 attempts and accumulating a 72.3 quarterback rating with 70 touchdowns and 72 interceptions. Stewart also ranks 13th on the team's all-time rushing list with 2,540 yards on 496 carries with 35 touchdowns.
The Bears offense has lacked a dual threat at quarterback and that's something the team had wanted to change. Stewart's ability to throw on the run will add a new dimension to the offense.
"It's something that our coaches have been talking about since I've been here by getting a quarterback that can make plays with his feet," Angelo said.
"We definitely will have to make some changes (to the offense). We have to play to his style if we want to accentuate on his strengths, which you want to let this guy be creative. A lot of his good play comes his with adlib ability and his spontaneity. You don't want to over coach this type of guy and take that away."
Stewart is slotted in as the starter at QB and ends any chances of the Bears going after Brian Griese. However, the signing will not stop the Bears from drafting a quarterback on the first day of the draft. Stewart will provide veteran leadership until a young quarterback can be developed.
"We're looking for a young developing quarterback," Angelo said. "We're not driven to take him necessarily with the fourth pick."
Despite being well under the cap Angelo said the team will now turn their attention to the draft rather then trying to fill more holes via free agency.
"You're never going to satisfy all your needs, so we're not going to presumptuous and think we're going to get it all done irrelevant of how much money we have," Angelo said.