Work in Sports
Steelers get their QB
After passing on Pennington, Cowher takes Martin late
Posted: Sunday April 16, 2000 09:11 PM
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't live up to pre-draft predictions by choosing a quarterback to replace Kordell Stewart. Instead, they drafted one who very much resembles him.
Tee Martin, who replaced Peyton Manning as Tennessee's quarterback and led the Vols to the 1998 national championship before having an erratic senior season, went to the Steelers on the fifth round Sunday.
The somewhat unexpected pick livened up what otherwise was a routine day of Steelers drafting that, just like the day before, began with a wide receiver -- this time, UCLA's Danny Farmer in the fourth round.
On Saturday, the Steelers passed up Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington to take Michigan State's Plaxico Burress with the No. 8 pick. After weighing their immediate needs -- a quarterback who might need a year or two against a receiver who might contribute immediately -- they went with Burress.
After spending weeks choosing between the two, they still tried to get Pennington, offering the New York Jets picks in the second, third and fourth round for the 18th pick the Jets used on Pennington. The Jets turned them down.
So, after failing to land Pennington, the Steelers took Martin as a consolation prize, even though many of his strengths and deficiencies match Stewart's.
Like Stewart, the 6-foot-1 1/2, 227-pound Martin can run and throw; he passed for 2,317 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season and carried 81 times for 317 yards and nine touchdowns.
However, the player described by one scouting service as the most physically gifted quarterback in the draft also has the rap of not adjusting quickly to defenses, not throwing sideline routes well and not seeing the entire field.
He also has trouble looking off receivers, and his accuracy is suspect, although he set the NCAA record for consecutive completions.
"There are a lot of similarities, no question," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said.
Martin thinks they are good comparisons.
"I am happy to be mentioned in the same sentence as Kordell," Martin said. "It is a great comparison. We both have the athletic ability to run. We both can throw the ball. I know Kordell is his own man. I just want to be myself and come in and fit in where I can."
Gilbride wouldn't speculate whether Martin's supposed lack of arm strength caused him to slip to the fifth round in what was considered a weak draft for quarterbacks.
"I don't know. You would have to climb into other people's minds," Gilbride said. "There's been speculation about accuracy; this year he wasn't quite as productive as last year."
The Steelers will begin training camp with four quarterbacks: Stewart, newly signed Kent Graham, Martin and Anthony Wright, a second-year pro from South Carolina who didn't see game action last season. "It will be a challenge to give everybody enough work," Gilbride said.
As expected, the Steelers targeted receivers, adding Burress and the productive but not-as-fast Farmer. At 6-foot-3, Farmer has the kind of size and productivity the Steelers were seeking.
Farmer had 58 catches and nine touchdowns as a junior, but slipped to 29 catches and three TDs last season while being bothered by groin and ankle injuries.
On Sunday, the Steelers also drafted linebacker Clark Haggans, who played defensive end at Colorado State; Duke defensive lineman Chris Combs, the son of former pro basketball player Glen Combs; and Kent State tight end Jason Gavadza.
"You look at Farmer, Haggans and Tee Martin -- we felt they did too many good things for us to pass up," coach Bill Cowher said. "I think we created some competition."
The draft was the first since Kevin Colbert replaced Tom Donahoe as the director of football operations. His philosophy was simple: address needs, but don't grab a player just because he fills a need.
"I don't think we reached for any player," Colbert said.