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Former Steelers QB Kordell Stewart Opens Up About the Rumors that Surrounded His Time in Pittsburgh

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Former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart is finally sharing his side of the story, opening up in a Players’ Tribune essay on Thursday discussing his complicated relationship with Pittsburgh and his fans.

In the essay, Stewart details the homophobic rumors and racism he experienced during his Pittsburgh career, and how they impacted his connection with the Steeler faithful.

Slander regarding Stewart ran roughshod in 1998, with homophobic rumors accusing him of engaging in lewd actions with another man in a city park.

“It never happened. It was a lie,” Stewart wrote. “But that wasn’t the point, right? It was Twitter trolls before Twitter existed, trying to put me in an impossible situation.”

While the claims were false, Pittsburgh and the world at large were a very different, less accepting place in the late 1990s, a reality which Stewart admits factored into his reaction to the gossip and his teammates’ perception of him.

“I got nothing but love for everybody, no matter what their sexual orientation is. It’s great to see how much the world has evolved in the last 20 years,” Stewart said. “But when this was all happening? Man, you have to understand, I’m a young Black quarterback in a blue-collar town. Being the target of those kinds of rumors? At that time? In that era? In that NFL?”

After former Steelers president Dan Rooney check up on Stewart, head coach Bill Cowher had the quarterback address the team. Stewart regrets how he handled that ensuing conversation, giving the rumors credence and treating it as more of standup routine than an honest conversation among teammates. Paranoia and hypersensitivity set in as a result.

“I could feel a change in the atmosphere right away. Maybe some of it was in my own head, but I felt like guys were looking at me differently,” he wrote. “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.”

According to Stewart, the Steelers later determined the rumor was started by a local police officer. Later that season was when Stewart experienced racism from his own fans. After a loss to the New England Patriots, a fan threw a beer at Stewart and called him the n-word.

“I can already hear people getting defensive. Just some trash talk, right? Just how it was back then when you went on the road, right? Nah, bro. We weren’t in New England. We were playing at home. We were in Pittsburgh. Dude was wearing a Steelers jacket.”

Stewart also discussed his relationship with the late Dan Rooney, and explained why he always resisted switching to wide receiver, a move which likely would have benefited him more in the long run. For Stewart, it was all about being true to himself.

“I took all the shots. I took all the slurs. I took all the slander. I made a lot of mistakes. But I stayed in that pocket. And dammit, I did it my way.”

Selected in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft out of Colorado, Stewart spent the first eight years of his career in Pittsburgh, breaking through as an all-purpose weapon that birthed his nickname “Slash.”

Upon becoming the full-time starting quarterback in 1997, Stewart took the league by storm, demonstrating athleticism ahead of its time for the position.

He passed for 13,328 yards and 70 touchdowns with 72 interceptions as a Steeler, while also rushing for 2,561 yards and 35 scores.

Stewart led the Steelers to a pair of AFC Championship games, and was named a Pro Bowler in 2001.

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

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Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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