Dare to Dream

BALTIMORE - Not me. Not now. Not after all of this time.<p> That is what went through the head of Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox as he lay on the field, his left ankle completely numb after it was stepped on by Baltimore nose tackle Kelly Gregg, after Maddox had thrown a pass in the third quarter of Sunday's 31-18 victory over the Ravens.<p>

"I didn't know what was going to happen with it and those thoughts always go through your mind," said Maddox. "Once I got up and started walking on it, I felt like it was going to be all right."

The Steelers and Maddox breathed a huge sigh of relief. Tommy Maddox is having what can only be considered a storybook season.

The tale of a former first-round pick who turned into a first-round flop, who spent a couple of years selling insurance only to have his career resurrected by a now-defunct football league, is the stuff that Hollywood script writers can only dream up.

The Steelers hope that story ends with Maddox holding the Lombardi Trophy high over his head. That's how important Maddox has become to this team and what he means to it.

The Steelers are now a passing team. And perhaps more importantly, they are now Maddox's team. Sunday's victory over Baltimore only drives that point home. Maddox came out against the Ravens and completed his first 11 passes. By the time the first half was complete, he had connected 4-of-19 attempts for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

"It was one of those games where I was seeing the field really well and the guys were running great routes and catching balls," said Maddox, who has now led the Steelers to a 3-1 record in four starts.

The thing is, every game has been like that for Maddox. And it starts with the play-calling of offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. After designing an offense last season to make the most of Kordell Stewart's running abilities, Mularkey has transformed the Steelers into a wide-open passing team that can put up points against anyone in the league.

And it ends with the quarterback nobody wanted a couple of years ago.

Even Steelers head coach Bill Cowher admitted he didn't know what to expect from Maddox when he named him the starter over Kordell Stewart a month ago. "I don't think anyone knew," Cowher said. "I think the only thing you could see was that with the opportunities he was given in the preseason and in practice was that he was pretty accurate. The unknown was what would happen when the speed of the game was faster."

That is no longer an unknown. Maddox is the real deal.

The Steelers are averaging over 30 points per game in his four starts. And in just four games, he's assumed a leadership role that it took Stewart four years to acquire.

Maybe it's because he's been around the block, seen the world, and had some tough breaks.

The Steelers are just happy that he didn't suffer another tough break Sunday.

--Dale Lolley

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