Stewart Steelers’ Standout : AFC: Versatile rookie plays key role in turning 31-13 deficit into a 49-31 victory over the Bengals.

From Associated Press

Kordell Stewart came into the NFL as a quarterback. He made the Pittsburgh Steelers’ lineup as a receiver. Now he has become their game breaker.

Stewart took a pass 71 yards for his first pro touchdown catch and the decisive play in a 49-31 victory Sunday over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers scored the game’s final 36 points to rally from a 31-13 deficit, their second-biggest comeback ever. Pittsburgh, with its fourth victory in a row, is now in control of the AFC Central at 7-4 and avenged an earlier 18-point loss to Cincinnati (4-7).

“When we were up, 31-13, [early in the second half], you would think we’d be in decent shape,” Bengal Coach Dave Shula said. “We were making some plays on defense in the first half, but the defense couldn’t come up with any more plays after that.”


Ultimately, it couldn’t stop the Steelers’ secret weapon.

Pittsburgh inched back into the game by getting a one-yard touchdown run from Bam Morris and a 15-yard touchdown pass from Neil O’Donnell to Andre Hastings. Stewart lined up as a running back, took a handoff and pitched to Erric Pegram on an option for the two-point conversion that made it 31-28.

Stewart went to the sideline and told teammates the game was there for the taking.

“I said, ‘We just need one play to break it open,’ ” Stewart said.

About two minutes later, Stewart went back into the game and provided the play. He lined up in the slot on the left as a receiver, sprinted down the middle of the field and took a pass from O’Donnell at the Bengals’ 43-yard line. He did a 360-degree spin to shake out of safety Darryl Williams’ grasp and went untouched the rest of the way.

“Neil just threw a great pass. I caught it on my fingertips and just used my ability after that and toted the ball like a loaf of bread into the end zone,” Stewart said. “It was a great play. That play was open all day, but Neil was hitting other guys. You’ve just got to be patient and wait for the ball to come to you.”

Last Monday night, Stewart threw his first pro touchdown pass on an option to spark a 20-3 victory over Cleveland. Stewart, a Colorado quarterback drafted in the second round, also runs the ball as a triple threat.

“Kordell Stewart can do a lot of things for that team,” Bengal cornerback Corey Sawyer said. “He can make a lot of big plays. He showed that today.

“They ran when they wanted to run the ball, passed when they wanted to pass the ball, and that set up their trick plays. That set up everything.”

Stewart’s play broke the Bengals’ spirits and revved up a pro-Pittsburgh crowd--many of the 54,636 fans were waving Terrible Towels. Morris added touchdown runs of three and eight yards against a defense ranked last in the NFL and was visibly fading.

Pittsburgh rolled up 556 net yards--340 in the second half--against a defense that lost linebacker James Francis to a broken leg in the first quarter and temporarily lost cornerback Rod Jones to a dislocated thumb.

O’Donnell completed 24 of 31 for 377 yards, and Morris carried 16 times for 101 yards and three second-half touchdowns.