Steelers' Maddox irritated by question about backup status
By ALAN ROBINSON
The Associated Press
LATROBE, Pa. - Tommy Maddox, the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting quarterback when training camp started last season, became agitated at questions Sunday that he might not be their backup this season.
Maddox, a starter for most of the 2002 season and all of 2003, is expected to compete with Charlie Batch to back up Ben Roethlisberger, whose 13-0 regular-season record was easily the best in NFL history by a rookie quarterback.
Maddox is signed to an affordable contract - his base salary of $750,000 is modest by quarterback standards - and he offers the Steelers a proven passer should Roethlisberger be hurt. But Batch is a former starter with the Lions, is more mobile than Maddox and is four years younger than Maddox, who turns 34 the week before the season starts.
Maddox, whose elbow injury in Week 2 of last season allowed Roethlisberger to play, also could be a trade candidate should the Steelers decide that Batch has fully recovered from a knee injury that sidelined him last season.
Asked if he felt he needed to win the backup job's, a visibly irritated Maddox said, "Leave it to you all to start opening stuff up the first day - I'm not going to answer that."
Maddox did say that the Steelers need to approach this training camp the way they did a year ago when they were coming off a 6-10 season. They went on to a club-record 15-1 regular season before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game for the second time in four seasons.
"The success we had last year is because we came to camp and were very determined to prove the year before was wrong," Maddox said. "I think we've got to take that same attitude, as good as last season was. It didn't end the way we wanted to, and you've got to come in here with something to prove and go to work."
The Steelers will do that on Monday, with the running drills that coach Bill Cowher traditionally uses to open camp. All players must run a series of 14 40-yard runs in a prescribed time, something 325-pound nose tackle Casey Hampton couldn't do in 2003.
Last year, Hampton had no trouble completing the runs.
"Everybody knows I don't like the run test, that's well documented ... but you've just to go out and do what you got to do," he said. "Last year I showed that if I really want to, I can do it, so it's really not a problem."
Hampton, whose size and strength make it difficult for opponents to consistently run the ball up the middle, made the Pro Bowl in 2003 before missing all but six games last season with a knee injury. His absence allowed Chris Hoke to start after never getting into a game during his first three NFL seasons, and Hoke was so effective that he is expected to push Hampton for playing time.
"I'm coming off an injury, and I've got to prove myself all over again," Hampton said. "But I know what I can do when I'm healthy - everybody knows."
The Steelers don't begin practicing until Tuesday, the first day that spectators can attend camp.