Bob Smizik, the curmudgeonly sports writer for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has some sound advice for the Steelers that doesn't involve disparaging commentary, a rush to judgment or any of the myriad other tools Smizik has been known to use to alienate, annoy, anger, irritate or insult. Here's his solution the the new "Tommy Maddox Saga" that has unfolded since Pittsburgh took QB Ben Roethlisberger with the 11th pick in last weekend's NFL draft.
Maddox claimed that the Steelers promised him (through is agent) that they wouldn't take a QB if Philip Rivers was off the board and would instead fortify the OT position. Well it didn't work out that way (and in truth, everyone in the world would have taken Roethlisberger with the pick because, quite literally, there were no other players left on the board worthy of being chosen 11th) and Maddox will be in Pittsburgh today to talk to the Rooneys and Cowher about his future. More specifically, he'll probably want to discuss why he's still slated to make $750,000 going into his second full year as the starter.
Enter Smizik, who solves the problem in a few short paragraphs:
"A fair salary for Maddox in 2004 would be $2 million, an increase of $1.25 million over what he is scheduled to make. The way to handle that is to rip up the old contract, give him a new one that includes the same base pay but with a $1.25 million signing bonus. That would give Maddox $2 million for 2004 and would count only an additional $416,667 against the salary cap for the next three years.That is exactly the point the Steelers should consider when talking to Maddox today. Of course they could choose to let him go and start the season with Batch, but that may create more questions than it answers (like who would be the backup?). I have to admit it, I'm with Smizik on this one.
Maddox is more than the starting quarterback. He's a mentor to Roethlisberger. The bulk of developing Roethlisberger will fall to quarterback coach Mark Whipple and offensive coordinator Pete Whisenhunt. But it's only natural that a young quarterback would gravitate to a veteran teammate who plays the same position for advice and tutoring. Again, that's an important function, and it's in the best interest of the Steelers that Maddox be team-friendly while serving in such a role.
The Steelers have set an encouraging course for the future with Roethlisberger. They shouldn't forget about the present with Maddox."