:: How he goes out, however, may be hanging in the balance when Stewart sheds ballcap and clipboard for a place in the huddle, perhaps for the last time as a Steeler. A good game or, if necessary, back-to-back games, will do nothing but increase his value come February. It may fetch the Steelers a draft pick in trade and/or a hefty contract offer for Stewart. Last impressions are often the strongest, especially when it comes to free agency. There is no doubt that Stewart needs this game and needs it to be good. After all, as SteelCitySports.com's Insider Dale Lolley has proclaimed, Stewart is indeed playing for a contract, and his future.
:: Stewart will get an opportunity somewhere in 2003 and, more importantly, an opportunity to start. His detractors will claim ad nauseam that he is the worst QB in the league, in the history of the league, even. That's silly. But, as fans we are an emotional bunch and often speak from the heart as opposed to the head. Stewart, at least for Pittsburgh, just hasn't been good enough, often enough, consistently enough.
:: But who has?
:: The Steelers have themselves a guy who can, for the most part, get it done and get it done for less than Stewart's 2003 cap hit -- even after he is traded or released -- in Tommy Maddox. Maddox is under contract through 2006 at a very reasonable rate, even if he's only a back-up a year or two from now. Stewart's contract, for many fans, has been the largest issue. After a poor showing in 1998, Stewart was extended despite still being under contract, while Pittsburgh continued to bleed talent due to free agency. He has been a target ever since.
:: There are few people on this planet, never mind in the NFL, that are as likeable as Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox. Both have failed miserably, or have been perceived to have done so, and have risen triumphantly in the face of immense doubt. Neither is the perfect QB and neither ever will be. But it is hard not to want them to succeed, no matter who you root for.
:: Stewart, however, has overstayed his welcome. The Steelers cannot afford him anymore, having made a number of large financial commitments at other positions over the last couple of years. The fact that some may bear out as poor decisions only hurts Stewart's case all the more. The Steelers can ill-afford another bad investment, no matter the consequences. Stewart may well go on to be a star in this league for some team willing to commit to him, and in hindsight it would then appear to have been the Steelers who were at fault for his struggles. But if he was to stay and fail, he, or rather his contract, would have destroyed what chance the Steelers have of resolving their future cap issues.
:: And there will be issues.
:: I, for one, like Kordell Stewart. I own his jersey, as does my oldest son. I have rooted for him passionately every snap he has taken, even when he has struggled. When he has had success, I have been happy for the individual as much as for the team, and in some cases more so. Few players have drawn such a reaction from me, as I have always been a Steelers fan first and a fan of the player second. But I now have little faith in Kordell, and that is what it has come down to for this fan. I want to believe, but disappointment has been far too frequent and, as ironic as it sounds, consistent.
:: Some is the fault of Stewart, some not, but regardless of where the blame lies -- and often it is everywhere -- the result is the same. The player is still culpable for his own performance. No matter the position. No matter the circumstance.
:: No matter the color of his skin.