PITTSBURGH: It’s Maddox over Martin.
For this week, anyway.
Tommy Maddox celebrated his 30th birthday Sunday knowing he made the Steelers’ final roster. He received a belated gift Monday afternoon when Steelers coach Bill Cowher told him he was the team’s backup quarterback.
It will be Maddox, not second-year pro Tee Martin, who will be called upon Sunday if starter Kordell Stewart goes down with an injury against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Alltel Stadium in the season opener.
‘I really think he had a good preseason, and he’s going to have a good year, and I think he’s going to have a good game against Jacksonville,’ Maddox said. ‘My job is just to be prepared in case something happens.’
The move, which Maddox said could be a week-by-week decision by Cowher, puts an exclamation point on Maddox’s career, which as recently as a year ago looked finished.
It also leaves a looming question mark on Martin’s.
It was Martin, a Steelers’ fifth-round pick in 2000, who was supposed to win the job. That’s what Steelers brass had hoped entering training camp. The reasoning was simple: It would save the team about $1 million by releasing Kent Graham and keeping Maddox and give new, young blood to the position.
Graham is gone, but Cowher said Friday he was not ready to anoint Martin the backup and that a decision likely would be made by Wednesday.
He didn’t need that long.
‘We went for a walk-through (before Monday’s practice). I took all of the second reps, so I kind of knew,’ Maddox said. ‘Like Friday, I kind of knew I made the team, but you still wait until Sunday afternoon to know for sure. I felt like I might be (the backup), but until you hear it from the head guy, you never know. It was nice to hear it.
‘I wasn’t surprised. I was excited about it. I was hoping I would have a shot at it.’
Maddox took most of the snaps with the second unit Monday, with Martin receiving few opportunities.
‘It could be a setback as far as goals are concerned,’ Martin said. ‘One of my goals was to go into the season being the backup.
‘I know I have to keep pressing (that) as one of my goals. Eventually I will get in that position. It won’t be a setback. It won’t be a disappointment. It will be a goal to keep trying for.’
Martin said despite a 7-for-17 performance for 45 yards and a touchdown playing three quarters against the Buffalo Bills Thursday, he didn’t play as badly as he thought. He finished the preseason completing 16 of 37 passes for 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Maddox did not play Thursday and went 19-for-35 for 244 yards, two touchdowns and one interception during the preseason.
Cowher decided to go with Maddox, who is entering his fifth season, rather than Martin, who has not taken a snap from center during a game that mattered.
Still, Maddox said the highlight of his weekend came Sunday, when after he officially was retained by the 4 p.m. cutdown deadline, his wife Jennifer, 8-year-old daughter Kacy and 2-year-old son Colby flew from their home in Dallas to Pittsburgh.
‘That’s the great thing about Travelocity. As soon as they got the word, they got on the computer and got the first flight they could,’ Maddox said with a laugh. ‘It was a great birthday, to know that you made the team and to know that your family is here with you now. I haven’t seen my kids in six, seven weeks.
‘I feel younger at 30 than I did when I was 24. I feel like I have a new lease on life.’
For good reason.