Tommy's the Man, Maybe the Only One in 2003

After Sunday's performance by quarterback <a href=>Tommy Maddox</a>, you can expect he'll likely be lining up under center for the remainder of this season. While Sunday's performance, 22-of-38 for 268 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, looked relatively good, it wasn't without fault. He forced some passes where they shouldn't have gone and got away with a few throws that could have been intercepted.

But it was certainly better than what Kordell Stewart had accomplished in the first three games of this season, so Maddox gets the nod.

The question now will be, what happens with Maddox when teams have more game film on him and are able to study him a little more in depth? They'll probably start taking away the middle of the field and force him to throw more balls to the outside, where his lack of arm strength shows up and the balls float a little. If the Steelers are able to start running the ball effectively again, that will ease some of that pressure, opening up the middle of the field.

As for Stewart, barring an injury to Maddox, his career in Pittsburgh is all but over. Stewart's base salary of $5.3 million this season jumps to $6.3 million next season in the final year of the $27 million extension he signed a few years ago. The Steelers aren't going to pay him $6.3 million to sit on their bench.

And that brings us to another point. Last spring, the Steelers had three quarterbacks on their roster: Stewart, Maddox, and Tee Martin. They weren't sold on Stewart being able to continue his success from 2001, which is why they didn't talk to him about a contract extension. They signed Maddox to a relatively cheap four-year, $5 million extension that included a signing bonus of $500,000. And it was obvious from his poor play in NFL Europe that Martin wasn't going to be in the Steelers' long-term plans.

That being the case, you have to wonder why the Steelers didn't select a quarterback at some point in the draft, with an eye on the future. Remember, Charlie Batch hadn't actually been cut by Detroit yet and there were no guarantees he would sign with Pittsburgh anyway. Now the Steelers are left with a situation where they'll cut Stewart when the season is over and be stuck with Maddox as their starter next season, for better or worse.

Batch is signed only through this season and wants to go to a team where he'll be the starter next season, making it unlikely he'll re-sign with Pittsburgh for less money than they gave Maddox. And they can't give Batch more money than Maddox for fear of alienating him.

The Steelers will be end up with Maddox as the only quarterback on their roster, forcing them to select one early in next year's draft. The problem with that is, it will take that player at least one season and possibly longer before he is ready to play. Had they taken a quarterback in the first few rounds of this year's draft , such as Rohan Davey (4th round, New England) or Kurt Kittner (5th round, Atlanta), at least they'd have a young guy on their roster right now learning the offense who might be ready to play in a year or two.

Luckily for the Steelers, next year's draft should be loaded with quarterback talent.

--Dale Lolley

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