Buckle up, Kordell is the 2001 starter
With good justification, I've not been a huge Kordell supporter the past couple years. Earlier this year I felt he was adequate since he was making few mistakes while doing just enough to win. After Graham injured his hip, Kordell played well enough to capture victories versus the Jags and Jets as a temporary fill-in. Without the pressures of being the man he did what he had to do and didn't lose the games. Then Graham came back (before he was fully healthy) and did very little to impress. Fair or not, his token shot at QB was over and Cowher put his beloved adopted son Kordell back in as the starter. What happened next was what we'd all come to expect of Kordell of '98 and '99 and the wheels began to fall off the cart.
After a couple decent starts early, in which he executed an efficient, low risk offense without blunder, he began to think rather than play. The offense sputtered for four games scoring only one TD per game against the Bengals, Browns, Ravens and Titans, the fans and the media had questions galore. Was the problem the receivers and dropped balls? Was it because Plex was under-utilized? Was it the coaches? Or...was it #10?
The Eagles came to town and the battle of the defenses was highly touted and a battle of the defense it was. Kordell didn't play well there were a number of dropped passes. When the final horn sounded, he finished the game by completing less than half of his passes for just 159 yards no TD's and an INT. He certainly had to share some of the blame for the loss although the defense was ultimately the chump in this contest handing out points like candy late in the 4th quarter and overtime.
The following weekend against the Titans was the game of games....or should I say shame of shames. The pressure was fully applied and Stewart choked his way to a measly 46 QB rating on 7 of 22 passing for 112 yards, 1 pick and 1 TD. Appalling numbers for a starter in the NFL! At this point, how could Cowher possibly keep him in the game?
But he did.
After being on the brink of pure failure, it seemed Stewart would cave, but surprisingly, he was not a complete flop against the Jags. The key is that he was able to mount several drives to make a game of it in the late going. Then, apparently building off late game success against Jacksonville, Stewart came flying outta the gates against Cincy scoring early and often. He finished the game with 3 TD's by air and another on the ground.
The confidence continued to grow this weekend against one of the AFC's best in the Oakland Raiders. After starting a new win streak he has thrown for 5 TD's in the last two weeks. Add a rushing touchdown for good measure and Stewart is once again flying high. He's contributed 6 TD's in two weeks with no interceptions in that period. Some would argue that he's back and that may be, but given his rocky past, I wouldn't be so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Even the chart of this year's starts shows the extremes from a low QB rating of 46 to his high of nearly 136. Consistency is one area that he still needs to be a true NFL QB and that means smoothing out the peaks and valleys.
Stewart's 2000 QB Ratings as a Starter
What's the largest difference difference between this year and years past? It's simple, it's his productivity. In '98 and '99 he had 11 TD's and 18 INT's and 6 TD's and 10 INT's respectively. That's 11 more interceptions than passing touchdowns which is extremely detrimental to an offense. This year, though, Kordell is in the black with 9 passing TD's and only 5 INT's. His ability to avoid crucial turnovers is apparently aided by a more mature presence he brings to the field. Combine maturity with the confidence of his teammates and confidence in himself and you've got the present state of Kordell.
So....since the Stillers organization will not chase a quality QB like Trent Green in the offseason, we should hope that Kordell has indeed begun to turn the corner after 2+ years of poor play. Sunday's game against the Giants could well define Kordell's future. It may be a blessing for Kordell to play on the road this week because while the Giants have a solid D and a 9-4 record, they're only 3-3 at home this year. Another win will probably win over the fickle fans in Pittsburgh. And, with success often comes more success. That being said, I'd much rather see #10 finish strong and confident than down and out. Regardless, he's going to be the starter next year, so we all need to buckle in and hope for an enjoyable ride.