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Ex-XFL Star Maddox Comes to Rescue

September 29, 2002

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PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Tommy Maddox, fittingly enough, signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers to be an insurance policy if something happened to Kordell Stewart.

Something happened Sunday and, because the Steelers had the insurance salesman-turned-backup quarterback around, they rallied to beat Cleveland 16-13 and avoid a possibly disastrous 0-3 start.

Maddox, the Broncos’ first-round draft choice in 1992, left football to run his Dallas insurance agencies from 1997-99, only to revive his career in the Arena League and the XFL. He was the MVP of the one and only XFL season.

Maddox then signed with Pittsburgh, but didn’t play a meaningful down all last season as Stewart was the Steelers’ MVP during a 13-3 season.

But with the Steelers down 13-6 late in the fourth quarter Sunday, coach Bill Cowher turned to Maddox because he runs the no-huddle spread offense better than Stewart.

``It’s the offense I’ve grown up in,″ Maddox said. ``In the XFL, we had four and five receivers all the time. It spreads the field out and it gets the defense out of what they want to do.″

After being unable to defend the spread offense in confidence-shaking blowout losses to New England (30-14) and Oakland (30-17), the Steelers used the same system to win a game that seemed lost.

Maddox needed just over two minutes to drive the Steelers 77 yards for the tying touchdown, his 10-yard pass to Plaxico Burress. After the Browns missed a possible game-winning field goal in overtime, Maddox led another scoring drive that ended with Todd Peterson’s decisive 31-yard field goal.

``I look at it the same way as baseball _ sometimes if a pitcher has a bad performance, you bring in a relief pitcher,″ Cowher said. ``To me, why can’t football be the same? We know if we need a spark, we can go to Tommy.″

What a comeback _ but, perhaps one not good enough for Maddox to replace Stewart as the starter. Steelers fans made their choice clear by chanting ``Tommy! Tommy! Tommy!″ Cowher apparently isn’t ready to sit down Stewart in New Orleans on Sunday.

``I’m leaning toward starting Kordell,″ Cowher said. ``If we need a lift, I will go to Tommy.″

Maddox was diplomatic, saying he didn’t want to benefit at Stewart’s expense. But he also said, ``I prepare myself every week to play like I’m going to play every snap. I don’t think what the situation is. I go in and try to be the best player I can be.″

Still, Maddox’s effect on the Steelers’ offense was clearly visible. After struggling to two field goals in 3 1/2 quarters with Stewart in charge, the Steelers went on two long scoring drives in barely half a quarter with Maddox in control.

``He came in and picked us right up,″ Burress said. ``Tommy makes great throws and make the receivers’ job easier. Tommy was reading the blitzes and making great throws, and we were just catching the ball.″

Stewart praised Maddox, too, but he isn’t ready to give up his starting job, not after reviving his own career last year after being benched late in the 1999 season and again at the start of the 2000 season.

``Tommy came in and did an awesome job,″ said Stewart, who was 15 of 25 for 143 yards and an interception. ``I’m a team guy and as frustrating as it was to sit there and not try to go out there and give it an opportunity to win, we needed a spark. But as far as I know, I’m the starting quarterback of this football team.″