It wasn’t long after he was drafted in the second-round in the 1995 NFL Draft that Kordell Stewart found success on the playing field—at three positions. Hence the nickname SLASH, a reference to how Bill Cowher and the Pittsburgh Steelers initially utilized him as a wide receiver/running back/quarterback.
Then in 1997 he became Pittsburgh’s quarterback, a position he held until early in the 2002 season, when he was supplanted by former Denver Broncos first-round pick Tommy Maddox. During his tenure as starting QB, Stewart led the Steelers to two AFC Championship games and won AFC Offensive Player of the Year in 2001.
A Nasty Rumor Emerges
But his tenure with the Steelers was complicated, in part because many fans and NFL observers believed he was ideally suited to remain in his role as SLASH, as opposed to becoming a full-time quarterback. His tenure became even more complicated in 1998, when a particularly nasty rumor emerged that he had engaged in lewd conduct with another man in a city park.
It’s that rumor that is the focus of a new essay published today in The Players Tribune, titled “You Know What I Heard About Kordell Stewart???”
In the piece, Stewart, now 48, recalls how he first heard about the rumor and how head coach Bill Cowher and team ownership reacted. He also discusses how it was suggested that he address the team about the rumor, which he did. It was a decision he says he immediately regretted.
“I could feel a change in the atmosphere right away,” he writes in the longform first-person article. “Maybe some of it was in my own head, but I felt like guys were looking at me differently…. I was hypersensitive to how everything I did was being perceived, you know? I was in my own head, and that’s not a good place to be for a quarterback.”
‘Maybe I Was a Little Ahead of My Time’
Indeed, Stewart’s career as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback turned out to be relatively short-lived. He went on to start five games for the Chicago Bears, then served as a backup for the Baltimore Ravens for two years before wrapping up his career in 2005 at the age of 33.
During his time in Pittsburgh, Stewart started 80 of 113 games and posted a 46-29 record as a starting quarterback. He completed 1,190 of 2,107 passes (56.5 percent) for 13,328 yards, but threw only 70 touchdown passes as compared to 72 interceptions.
And though he says his later years in Pittsburgh were “a struggle,” he says that he’s proud that he stuck things out and didn’t quit when times were hard.
“I always felt like Pittsburgh wanted to love me. But they wanted to love me on their terms. They wanted me to be SLASH. They were more comfortable with SLASH,” he writes.
“Maybe I was a little too ahead of my time, but hey, I did my part for the game,” he concludes. “And I have no regrets.”
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