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Steelers Cowher: Don't ask, don't tell

Steelers coach refuses to talk about his QBs

Wednesday, October 11, 2000

By Ed Bouchette, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Bill Cowher has plenty of company when it comes to flip-flopping on the issue of his starting quarterback.

Would anyone have believed there could be such support for Kordell Stewart again? (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

Steelers fans, who spent many of their Sundays the past two seasons booing Kordell Stewart and ridiculing him in letters to the editor and through Internet chat rooms, have thrown their support behind him this week, even if Cowher has not.

In a poll conducted on the Post-Gazette's Web page at www.post-gazette.com, 62 percent of the voters favored Stewart as the starter Sunday instead of Kent Graham. Stewart also received 62 percent in his favor in another Internet poll at KDKAradio.com.

Last season, Stewart would not have been able to muster a percent as high as the Green Party candidate. Now, Stewart, the quarterback who had beer dumped on his head at home, is the fans' choice?

"Isn't that what's great about sports?" Cowher said. "Isn't that what it should be? If you look at it from that perspective and recognize that's the ebb and flow, not just of a game, but in sports, the ebb and flow of a career. Sports in general creates that. It's the ups and down. I mean, one week this football teams is 'in total disarray.' The next week it's, 'hey, maybe they're not too bad.'"

For the second time, Cowher has mastered not answering questions at his weekly news conference. Three weeks ago, he opened his news conference by stating he would take no questions on the play-calling that cost the Steelers a chance at a victory in Cleveland.

 
 
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Yesterday, he opened by saying he would take no questions about the hottest sports topic in town -- the quarterbacks. After the Steelers beat the Jets in New York, he announced that Kent Graham would start Sunday's game against Cincinnati even though Stewart is 2-0 as their starter and Graham 0-3.

He said he would not explain why he chose Graham and he would entertain no questions about his quarterbacks, no matter how hard reporters tried.

"Let me just say, before we get started, I'm really not here to answer any questions in regards to the quarterback," he said to open his news conference. "I think my position's been made very clear. It's been discussed with the team, with anybody who's been involved with it.

"It would serve no purpose to go into any kind of lengthy detail about it. It's pretty self-explanatory. That's about all I'm going to say about the whole quarterback situation."

Several minutes later, the first question came about the Steelers' quarterbacks.

"You know what," Cowher said, "I really don't want to get into that whole scenario, because my interests are winning this week. My interests right now, as this football team knows, is making any decision that give us the best chance to win this week. I'm going to approach it week to week like that. There's no long term."

That could mean that he will reconsider who will start at quarterback every game. After the third or fourth question about the quarterbacks, Cowher said: "I've made myself very clear. I don't mean to cut you short, but I really think you're continuing to ask questions I've asked you not to ask. I'm not going to go into it at great length. I've given it thought. I understand the things.

"It doesn't serve any purpose for me to sit up here and tell you what I'm thinking and where I'm going with this. Yeah, I don't just make decisions out of the clear blue. I feel like I know what I'm doing, and you don't have to agree with it, and I respect you guys for that. But it would serve no purpose for me to sit up here and go through all the what-ifs. I won't do that. It's not out of disrespect to you guys, I just don't think it would serve any purpose."

After Cowher went to great length to explain what possibly could happen at tackle this week because of injuries, he was asked why he was willing to talk about that and not his quarterbacks.

 
 
The Poll


Results of an Internet poll conducted online at the Post-Gazette's Internet site:

62: percent of respondents believe the Steelers should stay with Kordell Stewart because he has the hot hand.

23: Percent believe Kent Graham has earned the job.

15: Percent believe Graham should start because Stewart plays horribly at home.

source: post-gazette.com

   
 

"I guess being the head coach, I can make that decision," he said.

The decision makes it look as if Stewart's career here will end after this season. Cowher benched him for the final 5 1/2 games last season, moved him to wide receiver and banished him from the quarterback meetings.

The Steelers signed Kent Graham as an unrestricted free agent and let him compete against Stewart in training camp. Early in the week before the first regular-season game, Cowher announced that Graham would start the first game but let it be known that things could change, and he would use whatever quarterback he felt gave them the best chance to win. He even sent Stewart into the game on first-and-goal at the 1 against Baltimore in the opener.

Graham and the passing game steadily improved through the first three games, although the Steelers lost all three. A hip injury near the end of the third game knocked him out for their Oct. 1 game in Jacksonville.

Stewart started against the Jaguars and they won. Graham returned to practice all last week and said his hip was fine, but Stewart remained the starter and the Steelers pulled off their second upset on the road, against the Jets.

Now he's back on the bench and Cowher won't say why.

"I'm not here to try to send any signals," Cowher said. "I'm trying to do what's in the best interest of this football team, and do it week to week. And I think [the players] understand that. They may not always accept the decisions that are made, but if they want to know, just ask."

Just don't ask about the quarterbacks.

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