The Stand begat the Drive. After coolly and methodically taking his team 97 yards in 14 plays, Kordell Stewart sneaked in from the one for the go-ahead touchdown. The Drive chewed up 8:48—plenty of time to reflect on how far Stewart has come since Pittsburgh's humiliating 37-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on opening day.
For Steelers fans, the most alarming aspects of that blowout were the general awfulness of Pittsburgh's overhauled secondary and the deer-in-the-headlights performance of its quarterback of the future. "I don't want to remember it," Stewart said last Friday. "Because of my knee [he was playing on a slightly torn ligament in his left knee, which has since healed], I wasn't myself. Everything was happening so fast—I was trying to drop back, find this, do that, and it wasn't happening."
Almost as galling to him as the loss was the pity he received afterward from some of the Cowboys, who told him "Hang in there" and "Keep playing, baby."
"It was, like, I appreciated it, but I didn't like it," says Stewart, who has since proved that he doesn't need anyone's sympathy.
After throwing his third interception of the game against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 5, Stewart looked at the scoreboard and saw that 14:45 remained—in the first half. At halftime Stewart told Gailey not to bother calling a bunch of short passes and handoffs to help him regain his confidence, because he had not lost his confidence. "Call what you want to call," he recalls telling Gailey. "Be aggressive. We'll go from there."
Stewart led the Steelers to touchdowns on four of their first six possessions in the second half, and Pittsburgh, which had trailed 21-0, came back to win 42-34. That rally matched the largest in team history and vindicated coach Bill Cowher, who had staunchly defended the 25-year-old Stewart after the debut against Dallas.
Despite the absence of three wide receivers injured in an Oct. 12 win over the Indianapolis Colts, Stewart has thrown for 563 yards in his last two games. Last Friday he ticked off the names of his new receivers, stumbling once. "We just signed Andre Coleman and, uh, Curtis."
"Hey, Rodge," he yelled to equipment manager Rodgers Freyvogel. "What's Curtis's last name?"