2001 NFL Football Preview

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Pittsburgh Steelers

QB Stewart being counted on to 'recapture' leadership role

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Posted: Wednesday July 18, 2001 11:48 AM

  • 2001 schedule
  • Head coach: Bill Cowher (10th season, 91-64-0 career)
  • Stadium: Heinz Field
  • Steelers all-time record: 461-486-20
  • 2000 rankings: Offense, 18th; Defense, 7th
  • 2000 team statistics
  • 2000 season results
  • Steelers alerts from CNNSI.com!
  • City Page: Pittsburgh, Pa. 

    Pittsburgh opens its training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., on July 19.

    By Jarrod Breeze, CNNSI.com

    Questions no longer surround the status of Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, a Steel City fixture who recently signed to a three-year contract extension. Winning four of your last five games and nine of 13 can do that. The key word in Pittsburgh this season is "recapture" as the team moves into its new stadium, Heinz Field.

    The Steelers can make the playoffs if ... Quarterback Kordell Stewart takes hold of the offense. Stewart has spent the past two seasons in and out of the lineup, but the seventh-year quarterback is being counted on to be one of the team's leaders. The Steelers averaged just 157.4 yards passing per game last season, second-worst in the league.

    Pivotal games: A four-game stretch beginning in mid-October will determine where the Steelers stand with the league's elite. After a game at Kansas City, Pittsburgh visits Tampa Bay before playing host to Tennessee and Baltimore in consecutive weeks. If the Steelers are still in contention after that, they'll be tested again in the second half of the season when they sandwich home games against the Titans and Ravens with road games at Minnesota and the New York Jets.

    On the hot seat: Wide receiver Plaxico Burress came in with big expectations but proceeded to drop everything in sight and was benched before his season ended after 12 games with a broken hand. Burress caught only 22 passes for 273 yards and no touchdowns, leaving many to wonder why the Steelers chose him over quarterback Chad Pennington with the eighth overall pick in the 2000 draft.

    Up-and-coming: Burress and second-year receiver Troy Edwards both disappointed in 2000, combining for just 40 catches and no touchdowns. The Steelers like Burress' 6-foot-6 frame, but he needs to be more consistent. Edwards, like Burress, lost his starting job midway through the season. But an impressive rookie year (61 catches for 714 yards and five TDs), can't be overlooked.

    Sports Illustrated's season preview will post Aug. 29.

  • AFC Central Previews: Ravens | Bengals | Browns | Jags | Steelers | Titans

    Pittsburgh Offseason Movement
    Signings  Departures 
    Jerome Bettis, RB  Dermontti Dawson, C 
    Will Blackwell, WR  Kevin Henry, DE 
    John Fiala, LB  Richard Huntley, RB 
    Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, FB  Levon Kirkland, LB 
    Jeff Hartings, G  Shar Pourdanesh, LT 
    Mike Jones, LB  Scott Shields, FS 
    Mike Logan, SS  Jeremy Staat, DE 
    Ron Rivers, RB  Jon Witman, FB 
    Jason Simmons, CB  Mike Vrabel, LB 
    Deshea Townsend, CB    
    Hines Ward, WR    
    Steelers' 2001 Draft Picks
    Round  Overall Pick  Player  Pos.  School 
    19  Casey Hampton  DT  Texas 
    39  Kendrell Bell  ILB  Georgia 
    111  Mathias Nkwenti  OT  Temple 
    146  Chukky Okobi  Purdue 
    181  Rodney Bailey  DE  Ohio St. 
    182  Roger Knight  OLB  Wisconsin 
    218  Chris Taylor  WR  Texas A&M 

    Related information
    Dr. Z's NFL Power Rankings
    The NFL in '01: Ten faces in new places
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