TIME: Sunday, 1 p.m. EST.
Bill Cowher isn’t saying who his starting quarterback is, so Tom Coughlin is.
It remains unclear if the Pittsburgh Steelers will start Tommy Maddox or Kordell Stewart against the Jacksonville Jaguars, but Coughlin thinks he knows who it will be heading into this matchup of former AFC Central rivals.
“According to Bill Cowher, Tommy Maddox is the starter,” Coughlin said Wednesday, ignoring Cowher’s statement from one day earlier.
Cowher refused to say Tuesday if he would go with Stewart or Maddox, who has been cleared to play less than two weeks after being briefly paralyzed by a hit in Tennessee.
Stewart, relegated to the bench earlier this season, played well in place of Maddox last week as he completed 22 of 26 passes for 236 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in a 29-21 win over Cincinnati.
It was Stewart who took most of the snaps during practice Wednesday.
“The only indication that is going to allow me to know if I’m starting on Sunday is if coach Cowher says it,” Stewart said.
Maddox sounds equally uncertain as to what will happen Sunday.
“I’m ready to get back out there, but that time will come,” he said. “I don’t know when it will be, but that time will come.”
Since the styles of Stewart and Maddox are so different, apparently Cowher felt it was to his advantage to keep his starter a secret.
“They are a very contrasting type of quarterback, so need I say more?” Cowher said.
Asked for a better explanation, Cowher just repeated himself, asking, “Need I say more?”
These coaches frequently matched wits as the teams developed an intriguing rivalry upon Jacksonville joining the league, and the AFC Central, in 1995. Coughlin often would sign players simply because they once played for the Steelers, including some—like Jim Miller and Ainsley Battles—in the week leading up to games with Pittsburgh.
Cowher turned the tables a bit this week by signing guard-center Jeff Smith, who played with Jacksonville in 2000 and 2001.
Regardless of who Pittsburgh’s quarterback is, he will surely be looking to get the ball to Hines Ward. The fifth-year wideout has 35 catches for 511 yards with five touchdowns in the last four games.
Ward, the first Steeler wide receiver with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons since Roy Jefferson in 1968-69, leads the NFL with 11 TD catches and is second in receiving yards and receptions.
The Jaguars offense, meanwhile, has been hurt by the kicking game.
Coughlin, who cut rookie Hayden Epstein earlier in the season, released Tim Seder on Tuesday due to his struggles on field goals, on-side kicks and kickoffs. Seder’s replacement is another former Dallas Cowboys kicker, Richie Cunningham, who has been out of the league the last two years.
Seder missed a 41-yard attempt last week and Jacksonville lost 21-19 to Dallas.
The Jaguars had three turnovers and 11 penalties in a loss that dropped the team below .500 and was a devastating blow to its playoff hopes.
“We lost our poise, we lost our discipline,” Coughlin said. “We did some things we hadn’t been doing in a very important game, and that always raises some questions.”
STANDINGS: Steelers - 1st place, AFC North. Jaguars - 3rd place, AFC South.
STEELERS LEADERS: Offense - Maddox, 1,872 passing yards and 16 passing TDs; Amos Zereoue, 512 rushing yards; Jerome Bettis, 7 rushing TDs; Ward, 81 receptions, 1,039 receiving yards and 11 receiving TDs. Defense - Chad Scott, 59 tackles; Joey Porter, 7 sacks and 4 INTs.
JAGUARS LEADERS: Offense - Mark Brunell, 2,232 passing yards and 11 passing TDs; Fred Taylor, 928 rushing yards; Stacey Mack, 8 rushing TDs; Jimmy Smith, 62 receptions, 831 receiving yards and 4 receiving TDs. Defense - Donovin Darius, 53 tackles; John Henderson and Marcus Stroud, 6 sacks; Marlon McCree, 4 INTs.
STEELERS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 125 yards per game (10th in NFL); Passing Offense - 249.3 ypg (5th); Total Offense - 374.3 ypg (6th). Rushing Defense - 90.7 ypg (3rd); Passing Defense - 248.5 ypg (28th); Total Defense - 339.3 ypg (20th).
JAGUARS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense - 135.6 ypg (8th); Passing Offense - 192.8 ypg (23rd); Total Offense - 328.5 ypg (17th). Rushing Defense - 119.4 ypg (18th); Passing Defense - 212 ypg (18th); Total Defense - 331.4 ypg (T-17th).
LAST MEETING: Nov. 18, 2001; Steelers, 20-7. At Pittsburgh, Stewart threw for 266 yards and a touchdown and ran for 51 and another score. The Jaguars were without Brunell and Taylor due to injury.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Steelers - Pittsburgh has won only once in seven all-time trips to Jacksonville. … RB Bettis is 66 yards shy of passing John Riggins (11,352) for 10th on the all-time list. … The Steelers have the NFL’s worst third-down defense, having allowed Cincinnati to convert 7-of-15 last week. Jaguars - Jacksonville leads the AFC with a plus-8 turnover ratio. … RB Taylor is 72 rushing yards shy of reaching 1,000 for the third time in five NFL seasons. … P Chris Hanson leads the conference with an average of 45.0 yards per punt.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Steelers - 3-3 on the road; Jaguars - 3-2 at home.
INJURIES: Steelers - OUT: LB John Fiala (knee); C Hartings (knee). QUESTIONABLE: S Mike Logan (groin); G Kendall Simmons (knee). PROBABLE: RB Bettis (knee); LB James Farrior (knee); LB Larry Foote (calf); RB Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala (pectoral); CB Chidi Iwuoma (knee); DE Brett Keisel (shoulder); CB Hank Poteat (knee). Jaguars - QUESTIONABLE: S Darius (shoulder). PROBABLE: CB Ike Charlton (knee); WR Pat Johnson (abdomen); LB Wali Rainer (neck); WR Bobby Shaw (toe); WR Smith (shin).