Direct numerical simulation (DNS) of turbulent flow around a rotating cylinder with two backward-facing steps axisymmetrically mounted in the circumferential direction was performed and compared with DNS of plane backward-facing step flow (PBSF) of Le [J. Fluid Mech. 330, 349 (1997)]. The original motivation of this work stemmed from the efforts to design a simple device which can generate flows of high turbulence intensity at low cost for corrosion researchers. It turned out that the current flow shows flow structures quite similar to those of PBSF downstream of the step, even though configurations of the two flows are totally different from one another. The stepped cylinder appears to be a cost-effective tool in the generation of flow structures similar to those of PBSF. (C) 2002 American Institute of Physics.