Tuesday Morning Blitz

<p><br> So, in trots Tommy Maddox, Steelers back-up and career failure. A former first-rounder who never amounted to much of anything, never mind a star quarterback. Once heir to the throne of the almighty John Elway, and now buried behind the prototype QB of the new millennium.<br> <br>

:: Well, all this bum did was execute. Hit open receivers…in stride, no less. Complete six of seven passes, while driving the Steelers sputtering offense 77 yards to its only touchdown of the afternoon. Then, in overtime, drive the team 52 yards for the game-winning field goal.

:: All he did was win. What else do you want?

:: Said Browns cornerback Corey Fuller: "Did he make a difference? He threw an interception, got a field goal and had that one good drive. All he did was take advantage of the situation. We were down to our third and fourth cornerbacks in the heat of battle, and they came out on offense and did some things we didn't expect."

:: He took advantage of the situation. Hmmm…you mean he did his job, right Corey? He hit open receivers, when they were open. You know, the routine. He did make one error -- an interception on the Steelers first possession of overtime -- and that is all some will bring up. Part bad read by Maddox, and part great play by Browns rookie linebacker Andra Davis, though Davis won't get a bit of credit.

:: By the way, let me get one thing straight before this goes any further: Kordell Stewart is not the "prototype QB of the new millennium". No, that guy plays in Atlanta. That is, if he doesn't already play in Philly.

:: Not long ago, it was suggested that Hines Ward is just a guy. He's not terribly talented, maybe a slot receiver at best. Well, all Hines has done thus far is catch 24 passes for 286 yards and three touchdowns. His 95.3 receiving yards-per-game average ranks sixth in the NFL. Quite honestly, Kordell owes Ward the 3-and-a-half quarters he did get to play on Sunday. Time and again Ward made catch after catch of passes thrown low, high and behind him.

:: Speaking of Ward and Stewart, Kordell was shown motioning Ward to come back after an incompletion near the end zone late in the third quarter. Not for nothing, but Ward had gotten open behind two Browns defenders, and working back towards Stewart would only have served to get him covered again. Perhaps Hines should have been motioning for him to read a defense instead.

:: Maybe that's the problem. Stewart was locked onto Ward on nearly every play, and it was that type of tunnel vision that led to the interception that could have ended the Steelers chances midway through the fourth quarter. Two Browns defensive backs blanketed Ward, and yet Stewart still forced the ball into the end zone. What Stewart failed to see was a wide-open Plaxico Burress dragging across the middle, and a easy completion for the points.

:: Maybe that XFL bum would have seen Burress, no?

:: Okay, enough beating up Kordell Stewart. After all, it's a long season. And a brighter one, as well, now that defensive guru Tim Lewis has an answer for the spread. Nothing was more gratifying than watching the Browns move quickly back into a more traditional three-wide set after limited success early on.

:: Finally in the third game of the season, we've gotten a sack from Aaron Smith. Any word from Jason Gildon? Did he play? Gildon had just 2 tackles in this game, which is disheartening given the amount of base 3-4 the Steelers played. These two need to step it up big-time if the Steelers defense to regain its dominating form of 2001.

:: Maybe there is indeed hope for Plaxico Burress; on a sideline throw by Stewart on the Steelers second drive Burress showed excellent body control and awareness, dragging his right leg inbounds while extending to make the reception. This has long been a snag in his development, and it was refreshing to see -- finally.

:: For the first time in this young 2002 season, the Steelers came away even-up in turnovers, and it made all the difference. Besides hanging onto the ball, the Steelers offense kept it away from the Browns, as well. The Steelers held a 2:20 time-of-possession advantage at the half, and the Steelers D proceeded to string three consecutive 3-and-outs together to start the third quarter. Coincidence? Maybe…but consider that the Raiders held a 2:1 time-of-possession advantage, and continued to run the Steelers defense ragged in the second half. Maybe a breather helps there.

:: Which brings me to my next and final point: Maybe a change at running back wouldn't hurt, either. But change to whom? Is it Jerome Bettis, or the offensive line? I would have to say the latter. My pleas go out to Russ Grimm, as they did two weeks ago to Tim Lewis regarding the defense. And I have every bit as much faith that he'll get this resolved. In the meantime, throw the ball if need be. Whether that be with Stewart or Maddox, I couldn't care less. So long as the QB that day executes and wins.

:: What else could you possibly want?

-- Blitzburgh


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