SAN DIEGO — Mark Malone, the Pittsburgh Steelers' starting quarterback last season, might be on his way home to play for the Chargers.
Malone, who played for El Cajon Valley High School in the 1970s, was expected to arrive Monday night on a flight from Pittsburgh in what might be the forerunner of a trade to the Chargers.
Officials for both teams who did not want to be identified said Malone was coming to San Diego to work out for the Chargers and undergo a physical examination.
The teams have been discussing a possible trade for Malone for several weeks, but that the activity intensified "in the last four or five days," said Joe Gordon, Steeler business manager.
Gordon described the talks as ongoing and said, "we feel there is a possibility a trade could materialize." Gordon added that the Steelers also were talking with several other teams, which he would not name, who are interested in Malone.
Malone, 29, became expendable last week after the Steelers acquired Todd Blackledge from Kansas City for a fourth-round draft choice.
Steve Ortmayer, Charger director of football operations, would not comment directly on any talks regarding Malone, but said the Chargers are talking with several teams that might have a quarterback available.
The Chargers have been looking to replace Dan Fouts, who announced his retirement two weeks ago, leaving them with Mark Herrmann, Mark Vlasic and Mike Kelley. Herrmann has been ineffective in several starting opportunities since joining the Chargers in 1985. Vlasic, the Chargers' fourth-round draft choice last year, played only briefly in the final game of the season. Kelley started one game during the players' strike.
Malone, the Steelers first-round pick out of Arizona State in 1980, is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $500,000 this season. He has had a difficult career in Pittsburgh. He had a knee injury that forced him to miss the 1982 season and a dislocated toe that caused him to miss the second half of the 1985 season.
Although he led the Steelers to the AFC title game in 1984, throwing for 2,137 yards and 16 touchdowns, his recent play has made him a frequent target of fan abuse.
Malone finished the 1987 season as the National Football League's lowest-rated quarterback with a 46.7 rating. He completed only 156 of 336 passes for 1,896 yards. His 6 touchdown passes were a league-low and his 19 interceptions tied for the AFC lead.