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Don't be fooled -- it was Stewart's job to lose, and he lost it

Sunday, September 03, 2000

In the court of public opinion, the jury seems to have decided that Bill Cowher's motive in starting Kent Graham over Kordell Stewart was somehow based on psychology. The theory goes that by relegating Kordell to a backup's role, he would be unburdened of the immense pressure which causes any starting quarterback's shoulders to droop. And that by naming him the clipboard holder, it will transform him into the hero-in-waiting darling the backup always enjoys in this town. Until he plays, of course.

I'm not buying it. In my mind, Cowher simply got tired of waiting for Kordell. Pre-training camp, he said it was Stewart's job to lose. And lose it he did. Cowher is just moving on. The Steelers' train is leaving the station house, and Kordell's not on it. He will have the opportunity to run down the tracks and catch up to it. Who knows, he may yet become the conductor. But time, and head coaches, wait for no man.

Maybe the Steelers wouldn't be in this constant state of quarterback flux if they stuck with one long enough. For the fourth consecutive season, there is a new savior running the scout team. In 1997 it was Mike Quinn. In '98 it was Pete Gonzalez. Last year it was Anthony Wright, who now begets Tee Martin. This reminds me of a kid looking over a box of Fannie Farmer assorteds, picking up each piece of candy in the box until he finds the one he likes the best. How can you possibly hope to develop one quarterback when he stays in your system less than 12 months? They loved Mike Quinn. Maybe he's still in the NFL because his benefactor, Chan Gailey is. Had they held onto Quinn instead of getting all glassy-eyed over Gonzalez, they might have themselves a solid backup and could have extricated themselves from this game of musical apprentices played year after year.

Attention Steelers fans, Larry Brown and the Dallas Cowboys! Please hold your snarls/guffaws until the end of this paragraph. Neil O'Donnell is still the best quarterback this franchise has had since the retirement of Terry Bradshaw.

You know you're a pitiful team when your winning percentage is barely above an opponent's (Todd Helton) batting average.

If some of these Pirates players can accept their bi-monthly paychecks without their cheeks flushing in a deep crimson, they simply are incapable of being embarrassed.

Robbie Brown wasn't going to score or prevent 30 goals. What he could do was prevent a locker room from disintegrating. It isn't just that he was popular with the other players, but he set a tone and an example for all to observe and follow. It will be most regrettable if the Penguins realize that when it's too late to do anything about it.

It's much too easy and much too obvious to attribute Rashard Casey's poor performance against a real Division I team last Sunday to the dark legal clouds hanging over his head. Penn State's problem is the same one which cost them a shot at the national championship a year ago. They cannot run the football. Couldn't last year, and apparently still can't A shocking inadequacy for a Joe Paterno team.

Many of you apparently aren't enthralled with Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football. All right. But more disgusting is ABC's foisting of Melissa Stark and Eric Dickerson on us. If Stark more closely resembled Janet Reno, would she even be on TV? How much does she know about football? And Dickerson. How much does he know about talking?

All off-season, Bill Cowher spoke of a need to change the attitude, and thus, the atmosphere in the Steelers' locker room. A renewed discipline and resolve. A rediscovering of the notion that playing for this football team is not an inalienable right. That you are appointed, not anointed. If the coach still believes in that mantra, he has an opportunity to prove it this afternoon by not starting Troy Edwards. I don't care if it's for one play, one series, one quarter, whatever. All the second-year wideout did this preseason was complain about not getting balls thrown to him, and then dropping those that were. To my way of thinking, that's not earning a starting position. I'm not suggesting he not play. They need him. But he shouldn't start today's game. If Cowher was serious about sending a message, this would be a great place to start.

Stan Savran is the co-host of "SportsBeat" on Fox Sports Pittsburgh.

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