Maddox discovering it's not all fun 'n' gun

Updated: October 3, 2003, 3:10 PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- All of a sudden, it's not as much fun being Tommy Gun.

Exactly a year after replacing Kordell Stewart as the Pittsburgh Steelers' starter, Tommy Maddox is discovering that the life of an NFL quarterback isn't all fun 'n' gun.

Coach Bill Cowher is grumbling about all the interceptions, 17 in Maddox's last 12 games. The fans wonder where the running game has gone. It's not that the Steelers are bad offensively -- they lead the NFL in passing -- it's the inconsistency that's worrisome.

The Steelers (2-2) were competitive throughout the first half against Kansas City, only to be blown out in the second half of a 41-20 loss on Sept. 14. The pattern returned Sunday in a 30-13 loss to Tennessee that saw the Steelers in control for most of the first half, only to be held scoreless in the second half.

"A lot of times last year we were down, and we came back and got back in the game and won," Maddox said. "I think that's the thing that's probably a little bit bothersome, that we're getting down there and having our chances and just not taking advantage of them."

Against Tennessee, the Steelers scored only one touchdown on five trips inside the 20. The Titans also returned one interception for a touchdown and another to the Steelers' 1, leading to a touchdown in the final minute of the first half.

The mistakes -- the Chiefs also returned an interception for a score -- are taking away from Maddox's ability to repeatedly lead long drives. He has 1,161 passing yards, 200 more than any other AFC quarterback.

"We are getting a lot of yards passing, but they are giving us a lot of yards passing," Cowher said. "Some of the games we have been getting all this yardage because we have been behind so much."

Maddox lines up Sunday night against Cleveland (1-3), the team that a year ago was indirectly responsible for him becoming a full-time NFL starter for the first time since being drafted by Denver in 1992.

With the Steelers trailing the Browns 13-6 in the fourth quarter and in danger of falling to 0-3 with a loss, Cowher pulled Stewart. Maddox came on to rally Pittsburgh to a 16-13 overtime victory and has been the starter since, except for two games he was injured.

Two months later, Maddox pulled off another comeback against Cleveland as the Steelers overcame a 24-7 deficit to win their wild-card playoff game 36-33 -- the biggest comeback in Pittsburgh's postseason history.

Now, Cowher suggests Maddox might be trying to do too much, growing impatient and throwing into coverage rather than simply throwing the ball away and waiting for another down.

"He made some great throws (Sunday) but, at the same time, we have to be smarter about some of those decisions," Cowher said. "We cannot continue to have the turnovers that are taking place and win games."

Maddox agrees he sometimes tries to shoulder the entire weight of the offense.

"Probably sometimes I take too much of that attitude, and I think that's probably more of what Bill was talking about," Maddox said. "At the end of a half, you don't have to be aggressive in a two-minute situation as you are at the end of a game."

Wide receiver Plaxico Burress doesn't think there's anything wrong with the Steelers' passing game other than a need to protect the ball better.

"Tommy's a good quarterback and he's going to continue to be confident in himself and be confident in his arm," Burress said. "He's going to make tough throws and, as receivers, we're going to have to make tough catches. ... We've just got to go out and be more careful with the football."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index