Steelers' QB situation the best in the north

Who would have thought going into this season the Steelers would have the most settled quarterback situation in the AFC North? <br><br> But with Tommy Maddox returning for his third season as the team's starter, the Steelers are in a better position at the most critical position on the field than the Ravens, Browns or Bengals will be in 2004.

Cincinnati is changing from 2003 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Jon Kitna to Carson Palmer. Cleveland id making the transition from the two-headed Tim Couch/Kelly Holcomb monster to Jeff Garcia. And Baltimore will again go with second-year man Kyle Boller.

Next to those three - yes, even Garcia - Maddox looks downright solid.

Now I know that Palmer was the No. 1 pick in last year's draft and Boller was also a first-round draft pick. And I know that Garcia is a former Pro Bowl player.

But it's all about the player you are now, not the player you will be or have been.

Palmer has excellent receivers to throw to and was the Heisman Trophy winner two years ago, but he will still be taking his first NFL snaps this season.

Boller showed some promise during his rookie season, but still threw more interceptions than touchdowns before going down with a torn muscle in his leg. And beyond tight end Todd Heap, his receivers are downright awful.

And Garcia hasn't been the same player the past two seasons because of a back injury that isn't going to get any better. Add to that the fact he won't have Terrell Owens to count on any longer like he did in San Francisco, and Garcia figures to struggle a bit in his move from the West Coast to Ohio's north coast.

So even though this will be a transition year for the Steelers from Maddox to Ben Roethlisberger, they are still better off this season at that all-too-crucial position than their fellow AFC North brethren.

Will that add up to a division title for the Steelers?

More than likely, no.

But if anyone can tell you how inconsistent play at the quarterback position can kill a team, it's the Steelers, who lived through that with Kordell Stewart for several seasons.

It's not good for quarterback to be your weakest position on the field. And for the Bengals and Ravens, that's the situation.

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