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Steelers

Quarterback not on Steelers' draft wishlist

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, April 18, 2001

You say the Steelers need to use a premium draft pick on a quarterback.

You say Kordell Stewart is not the answer.

You say Purdue's Drew Brees would look good in black and gold, provided you can see him when he steps behind center. (After all, he stands only one-half inch taller than 6-foot.)

You, obviously, don't hold a position on the Steelers' scouting, executive or coaching staffs.

Unless they are throwing up the thickest, blackest smoke screen of all time, the Steelers will not use their first-round pick Saturday on Brees or any other quarterback. Mel Kiper has ticketed former Rutgers University and North Allegheny High School quarterback Mike McMahon as the Steelers' second-round pick, but maybe fumes from his hair-spray bottles have made him dizzy. Given their defensive shortcomings, the Steelers aren't especially interested in a quarterback.

People who watch and analyze the NFL for a living believe that the Steelers need to seriously address the position. People who work for the team don't agree.

Director of football operations Kevin Colbert said on the team's Web site nearly three weeks ago that the Steelers might not use any of their six picks on a quarterback. Of course, NFL executives change their minds regarding the draft every day, but coach Bill Cowher said this week that the fourth quarterback on the roster 'doesn't necessarily have to be a college player.'

If the Steelers do sign a veteran backup, it could mean the end of Kent Graham's brief stay, depending on the level of financial commitment given to the new quarterback. It also could hinder the development of Tee Martin, who never got in a game last year in his rookie season. The NFL is littered with the Steelers' quarterback discards, including Jim Miller (Chicago Bears), Mike Quinn (Miami Dolphins), Anthony Wright (Dallas Cowboys) and Pete Gonzalez (Buffalo Bills), and it might be time for the Steelers to get Martin ready for their future.

The thinning group of veteran free agents is led by Super Bowl XXXV champion Trent Dilfer. The Steelers inquired about Dilfer earlier this month, but he was not interested in being Stewart's backup. Dilfer might end up as the Kansas City Chiefs' starting quarterback.

The Steelers' search for a fourth quarterback won't be limited to veterans. It's possible they could find one in the later rounds, especially if they decide not to match the offer for running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala and get an extra sixth-round choice from New England Patriots. It's just as likely, however, that they will try to sign an undrafted rookie.

Actually, the Steelers missed their chance to draft a quarterback last year when they passed on Chad Pennington - despite giving him serious consideration with their No. 1 pick - and opted for wide receiver Plaxico Burress. If the Steelers had drafted Pennington, they would have lost Burress, but they might have had their quarterback of the future. Then, they could have picked a solid wide receiver in the second round this year from one of the deepest crops ever to come out of college.

After Brees and Virginia Tech's Michael Vick, who will go to the San Diego Chargers with the first overall pick, the bounty of quarterbacks falls off sharply. McMahon performed well at the Senior Bowl, was MVP of the Blue-Gray game and had the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.57 seconds) at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. But he threw 17 interceptions last season for a bad Rutgers team, and he is not the most accurate passer in the draft. Still, he could be chosen on the first day.

Heisman Trophy winner and Florida State product Chris Weinke, who turns 29 in July, and Jesse Palmer of Florida also could be drafted in the first three rounds.

  • Note: The Steelers have not announced if they will match the one-year offer sheet that running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala signed with the New England Patriots. The offer includes a $450,000 base salary and $250,000 signing bonus.

    Steelers quarterbacks
    Kent Graham 6-5 240 10 Ohio State He might fight for his job in camp.
    Tee Martin 6-1 221 2 Tennessee It's time for the Steelers to develop a young quarterback.
    Kordell Stewart 6-1 211 7 Colorado The undisputed No. 1


    Tomorrow: Running backs

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