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Could Devin Gardner become the Steelers' new Kordell "Slash" Stewart?

At Michigan, Devin Gardner ran, caught, and passed for a slew of touchdowns. Can the Steelers utilize his ability at the next level?

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

An "X-Factor" can made a good team a great team, and that's something the Steelers could use in 2015.

Newly signed rookie free agent Devin Gardner, who played both wide receiver and quarterback at Michigan, could be the X-Factor the Steelers are looking for.

Two decades ago, a rookie by the name of Kordell Stewart helped ignite a Super Bowl run. Using his versatility as a running back, receiver and quarterback, the Steelers turned Stewart loose and helped catapult Pittsburgh's offense into one of the most dynamic and explosive units in the NFL at that time. Maybe, Gardner can do the same for the Steelers this fall.

Gardner, recently released by the Patriots and quickly signed by Pittsburgh, has many tangibles and intangibles that remind you of the original "Slash". He started 27 games at Michigan, throwing for 6,336 yards and 44 touchdowns. The 6'4'', 216-pound Gardner was also a dangerous runner, amassing 916 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground during his college career. While splitting time at quarterback with Denard Robinson in 2012, Gardner started four games at receiver, catching 16 passes for 266 yards with four touchdowns.

Gardner also proved himself to be a big-game performer during his time with the Wolverines. A year after throwing for 451 yards and four touchdowns against the rival Buckeyes as a junior, Gardner completed 22 of 32 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns this past season against the eventual national champions. In front of a prime time audience against Notre Dame in 2013, Gardner passed for 294 yards, rushed for 82 more and accounted for five touchdowns in Michigan's 41-30 win.

Character has never been a question for Gardner, who in 2013 was given Michigan's 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon's No. 98 to wear for the rest of his career. Gardner's character was on display in his final college game, as he showed support of injured Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett. His bio on states that Gardner is an "outstanding leader and willing to do whatever it takes to make transition to wide receiver."

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert certainly has an eye for talent at the wide receiver position. After all, it was Colbert who drafted Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, and Martavis Bryant. If Gardner's athletic ability, versatility and work ethic is enough to make him an impact player on the Steelers offense, it will be just another feather in Colbert's cap and, most importantly, another weapon that Ben Roethlisberger can use at his disposal.