Former Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart was at the team’s UPMC Sports Performance Complex on Wednesday, but not to take any snaps during OTAs. Stewart was there to officially retire from the NFL.
“I just wanted some closure with my NFL career,” said Stewart. “I wanted to finish it off as a Steeler. This is where I started. I talked to Mr. (Art) Rooney and he gave me the opportunity to finish it out as a Steeler. This means a lot. It lets me know how much they appreciate what I have done. I just want to tell Mr. Rooney and Dan Rooney the appreciation I have toward them and how they stuck by me during the tough times. When I talk about the Rooney family and how they do their business, they do it better than anybody.”
Stewart spent time visiting with the Rooney family after talking about his retirement, as well as some staff and coaches, enjoying a lot of laughs.
“Closure is not about the tears and the crying,” said Stewart. “It’s about I did it and I had a great time. It’s closure in a positive way. I got it done and I had a great time doing it. It’s about the experience and what I got out of it. This is where it all started, that’s where all of my success was.”
Stewart reflected back on that success, talking about his career that started off with a bang in his “Slash” role when he played quarterback, receiver, running back and even punted his first few seasons to the ups and downs of playing quarterback.
Stewart was the Steelers second-round draft pick in 1995 out of Colorado, playing eight seasons. Stewart was named the team’s starting quarterback in 1997, completing 236 passes for 3,020 yards and 21 touchdowns that year. His best season was in 2001 when he led the team to a 13-3 regular season record while completing 266 passes for 3,109 yards and 14 touchdowns, as well as rushing for five, en route to being voted the Steelers MVP and winning the AFC Offensive Player of the Year.
During his eight years with the Steelers Stewart completed 1,190 passes for 13,328 yards, ranking him third all-time in team history in both categories, and 70 touchdowns.
“It was phenomenal,” said Stewart. “From being ‘Slash,’ to going to the Super Bowl, getting my opportunity at quarterback, doing some outstanding things, to having some tough times which is a part of the game, and finishing strong when needed. It was an ebb and flow type of career I had. There were highs and lows, but perspective was set in to the point where if you understand anything in life that is what you will have, the ups and downs, understanding that I had a great time.”
Stewart, who has spent the last four years working as an analyst for ESPN, finished his NFL career playing for the Chicago Bears in 2003 and then two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.
It was his time with the Steelers that meant the most to him, and after the passing of his father Robert Stewart in March, 2011, he knew he needed to put his football career to an end the right way.
“I just made a phone call to Mr. (Art) Rooney,” said Stewart. “I was at ESPN and saw Torry Holt say he was getting it done. I was still working out, just being prepared for just in case. You see so many older guys playing who are back-ups. So I stayed in shape.
“My dad passed and perspective started setting in when my main man wound up leaving. I needed closure in some areas of my life. This was one. I figured if I was going to do it, I wouldn’t do it anywhere else.”