Team reworks contract to reward starter

The Pittsburgh Steelers rewarded Tommy Maddox's patience and loyalty Sunday night by reworking his contract and giving him a raise that should make him feel like the team's starting quarterback.

Maddox agreed in principle to a new four-year deal that included a $2 million signing bonus and could be worth $14 million if he hits all of his incentives. Maddox was scheduled to make $750,000 this season, making him the lowest-paid starting quarterback in football.

The Steelers didn't have to rework the five-year, $5 million contract Maddox signed in 2002 when he was Kordell Stewart's backup, but owner Dan Rooney felt obliged to give Maddox starting money at some point. That didn't happen last year because the team didn't have the cap room.

Both sides have been negotiating throughout the offseason and finally came to an agreement Sunday. Maddox had three years remaining on his contract. Now, he will be signed through the 2008 season.

The deal accomplished two purposes. It allows Maddox to stay as the starting quarterback until first-round choice Ben Roethlisberger is ready to take over the starting job. The plan is for Maddox to start this year and for Roethlisberger to challenge in either 2005 or '06.

Maddox will get starting pay over the first two years and then get backup money toward the end of the contract.

The 32-year-old Maddox was an amazing comeback story. After being selected in the first round by the Broncos in 1992, Maddox never challenged Denver quarterback John Elway for playing time. He was traded in 1994. His NFL career hit the wall in 1996 after the Giants released him. Then he resurrected his career in the Arena League.

The Steelers signed him in 2001, and he became the starter in 2002. This will be his third season as the Steelers' starting quarterback.