Bear No Butkus Yet
Brian Urlacher's pro career is off to a rocky start. Urlacher, who at New Mexico not only was an All-America linebacker but also lined up on occasion as a safety, wideout and return man, parlayed his versatility into a five-year, $8 million deal with Chicago as the ninth pick in the draft. The Bears thought so much of Urlacher that on draft day they installed him as their starting strongside linebacker. But last week he lost his spot to Rosevelt Colvin.
According to Chicago coach Dick Jauron, Urlacher was making too many mental mistakes and getting caught out of position too often. He wasn't neutralizing tight ends. "I'm struggling a little bit, and Rosevelt's playing better," a humbled Urlacher said last Friday after the Bears closed their preseason with a 34-28 loss to the Titans. "In college I basically just had to fly around. But this game is 90 percent mental for me right now."
Urlacher smiled ruefully when it was mentioned that what had made him so marketable coming out of college—his versatility—is what is hurling him. "Playing all those positions was good for the team and good to showcase me," he says. "But it's bad for me now. I wished I'd have played linebacker [full time] in college."
Time to Bring Back slash
One day in late July, at Steelers training camp in Latrobe, Pa., Kordell Stewart had a remarkable practice. He hit receivers from the pocket. He hit receivers on the run. He pointed out mistakes to young wideouts Plaxico Burress and Troy Edwards. Just before the end of drills, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride set up a trash can on the goal line and had his four quarterbacks line up at the 45-yard line. The objective in the Hail Mary exercise: Hit the can or get the ball in it. Going first, Stewart dropped a rainbow in the can. The other three quarterbacks threw a total of 15 balls but didn't come close.
After practice an observer told coach Bill Cowher that Stewart seemed to be on his game. "He's having a good camp," Cowher said. "But let's see what happens when he gets booed at home."
On Monday, after watching Stewart struggle through a preseason in which he completed only 35% of his passes, Cowher named Kent Graham his starter. Why has Stewart struggled the past two seasons? Pittsburgh has tried to make him a classic drop-back quarterback, which he is not; he can't handle media and fan criticism; and, says a friend of Stewart's, the quarterback doesn't think the coaches have supported him as much as they should.
The Steelers should do Stewart and themselves a favor and go back to using him in the running-receiving-passing role that earned him his nickname, Slash, in 1995.