The 2002Pittsburgh Steelers season had the team coming off a 13–3 record and making an appearance in the AFC Championship Game. The team fell off slightly to a 10–5–1 record, although it was still good enough for a division championship. With their finish the Steelers became the first champions of the newly created AFC North. Bill Cowher's team won the Wild Card Game, defeating the Cleveland Browns at home, but lost to AFC South champion Tennessee in the divisional round.
Week 4 saw Kordell Stewart's final game as the Steelers' starting quarterback, as he was replaced by Tommy Maddox during the game and did not start again as he was released following the season.
Kordell Stewart began the game, going 15–25 for 143 yards, but was intercepted by Robert Griffith of the Browns. At this point his Pittsburgh career all but ended when he was benched and replaced by backup Tommy Maddox, who hadn't thrown a pass in the NFL since 1995 with the Giants but had resurrected his career with stints with the New Jersey Red Dogs in the Arena Football League and a championship season in the ill-fated XFL. With the Steelers down 13–6, Maddox found Plaxico Burress for the tying touchdown just before the two-minute warning. The game went to overtime, but Maddox was picked off on his first throw of the extra quarter. The Browns, however, gagged when Phil Dawson missed a 45-yard field goal try. With new life the Steelers led by Maddox marched in range for Todd Peterson's 31-yarder and the 16–13 final.
In the first NFL tie since 1997, Tommy Maddox erupted with 473 passing yards (a club record that stood until Ben Roethlisberger broke it in 2009) and connected on four touchdown throws in his first matchup against the coach who drafted him in Denver, Dan Reeves. Reeves' Falcons, however, were surging behind the running of sophomore quarterback Michael Vick. A 34–17 Steelers lead in the fourth could not be held as Warrick Dunn and Vick rushed the Falcons in range for a one-yard Bob Christian rushing touchdown, a Jay Feely field goal, and finally the tying Vick rushing score with 32 seconds remaining in regulation. In overtime the Steelers drove to range of a 48-yard field goal try by Todd Peterson, this after he'd missed a 40-yarder in regulation. The Falcons' Brian Finneran had caught six passes for 72 yards, but in his career debut on special teams he pulled off the play of the game by blocking the kick. Late in the extra quarter Maddox was picked off by Kevin Mathis, but the subsequent 56-yad Feely try was blocked, with one second left on the clock. Maddox launched a desperation heave and Burress caught it, but was ruled down at the one-foot line with the game declared over.
Maddox's career nearly ended in tragedy as he threw a pass that Hines Ward turned into a 72-yard touchdown, but after completing just 14 of 28 throws for 194 yards and three picks he was sacked; the hit left him briefly paralyzed and he was taken to the hospital on a stretcher. He recovered from the hit but Kordell Stewart had to come off the bench for what turned out to be his final three games with the Steelers. He completed 13 of 17 throws for two touchdowns and the Steelers also completed two two-point tries. It wasn't enough as the Titans behind 257 passing yards (with two touchdowns) by Steve McNair and 121 rushing yards (McNair and Eddie George accounted for 103 of them) won 31–23.