Steelers 2012: Kordell Stewart Retires a Pittsburgh Steeler (Yes, It Is 2012)

William RenkenCorrespondent IIIMay 30, 2012

Stewart officially ends his career with the Steelers.
Stewart officially ends his career with the Steelers.

Well, now that it is official...

After seven years of inactivity in the NFL, Kordell Stewart announced his retirement in Pittsburgh today, ending his career as a Steeler.

The natural assumption was that Stewart was already retired after being released by the Baltimore Ravens in 2005. However, that was apparently not the case.

Stewart first made highlight reels during his senior season at Colorado when he uncorked one of the most famous Hail Mary passes in history into the hands of Michael Westbrook, lifting the Buffaloes to a miracle victory against Michigan at the Big House.

Stewart was drafted into the NFL by Pittsburgh in 1995 and became an unlikely utility player for the Steelers in multiple positions, which led to the timely nickname bestowed by legendary Steelers commentator, Myron Cope.

As "Slash," Stewart only threw 37 times in 1995 and 1996 but became a viable option carrying the football as well as a receiver, accounting for 945 all purpose yards and 11 touchdowns.

By 1997, though, Stewart had shed the "Slash" gimmick and moved exclusively into the role of quarterback, lifting the Steelers to an 11-5 record along with throwing for over 3,000 yards.

But Stewart's era at the helm of the Steelers offense was perpetually plagued by the motif of "one step forward, two steps back."

The 1998 and 1999 seasons saw Stewart muster only a 12-15 record combined and not only the loss of Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator, but also his big play wide receiver Yancy Thigpen, fed to Stewart's inconsistency in a new offense with new receivers. The inconsistency led to frequent sharing of snaps between Stewart and Mike Tomczak for much of 1999.

After regaining his job due to Kent Graham's poor play and subsequent injury in 2000, Stewart went 7-4 for the remainder of the Steelers season, righting his ship in Pittsburgh and laying the groundwork for his career defining 2001 campaign.

Under offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and quarterbacks coach Tom Clements, Stewart posted a 13-3 record, threw for a career high 3,109 yards and was one game away from leading Pittsburgh back to the Super Bowl before falling short to New England.

But the success of 2001 did not carry over to 2002, as Stewart struggled under center (along with injury), leading to the emergence of the only XFL MVP in the one year history of the ill-fated football league, Tommy Maddux.

Maddux's success in 2002 was the final death nail for Stewart's career in Pittsburgh as he was released at the end of the season. He was signed by Chicago for the 2003 season and looked to reignite his career in the NFC, but he again struggled managing only a 2-5 record.

Stewart's final two years as an active player were spent with the Ravens in 2004 and 2005, where he saw minimal to no action as quarterback, but saw unexpected success as a replacement punter averaging 35.4 yards on 5 punts when Raven's starter Dave Zastudil went down with an injury.

His release from the Ravens in 2005 went with little comment or fanfare, but he continued to keep himself available for that call all ex-players wait for—but only a few ever get. After working for ESPN for the last few years as an NFL and college football analyst, Stewart finally came to the realization that after seven years away, the fabled call he was hoping to get was never coming.

Although the timing seems a tad odd and borders on anachronistic, Stewart's official retirement as a Steeler in 2012 is a microcosm of his career where he went 46-29 as a starter—you just never knew what you were going to get with Slash.