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The Pittsburgh Maulers were a team that competed in the 1984 season of the United States Football League. Their most prominent player was first pick overall in the 1984 USFL draft, running back Mike Rozier of Nebraska, who won the Heisman Trophy, collegiate football's most prestigious individual award.

Pittsburgh Maulers
Pittsburgh Maulers helmet Pittsburgh Maulers logo
FoundedApril 28, 1983
FoldedOctober 26, 1984[1]
Based inPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Home fieldThree Rivers Stadium
LeagueUSFL
DivisionAtlantic Division
Team HistoryPittsburgh Maulers (1983–1984)
Team colorsPurple, Renaissance Red, Gray, White                    
Head coachesJoe Pendry (2–8)
Ellis Rainsberger (interim) (1–7)
Hank Bullough (would be 1985 coach)
General managersGeorge Heddleston
Owner(s)Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.

They were owned by shopping mall magnate Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr., the father of Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr., then-owner of the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League and the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League. The Maulers played at Three Rivers Stadium.

Contents

1984 seasonEdit

No one was surprised when two groups filed for a Pittsburgh franchise in the winter of 1983. It did come as a considerable surprise that DeBartolo, Sr. was one of them, given his son's ownership of the 49ers. However, while the other group contented itself with holding a rally to demonstrate support for a potential franchise, DeBartolo stole a march by securing an all-important lease for Three Rivers Stadium. A few days later, DeBartolo's longtime right-hand man, former Steeler Paul Martha, informed the other owners and Commissioner Chet Simmons that his boss was not only applying for a franchise, but already had a lease.

There was some debate over whether to approve DeBartolo's bid, with some fearing that they were effectively allowing an NFL owner into their circle. It was an open secret that Eddie, Sr. and Eddie, Jr. worked closely together.[2] Ultimately, the owners realized that DeBartolo would lend the upstart league instant credibility and unanimously approved his bid, making him the first owner of a USFL expansion team. Unusually, DeBartolo applied for the franchise in his own name, rather than setting up a corporation or partnership. He also paid the full $6.25 million expansion fee up front. A name-the-team contest yielded the nickname "Maulers," after the sledgehammer-wielding workers in steel foundries.

The NFL itself threatened an investigation over a possible Cleveland Spiders-style conflict of interest due to the father owning a USFL team and the son owning an NFL team, an accusation both father and son insisted was not the case.[3] Ultimately, the NFL asked Eddie, Jr. to leave the room during any USFL discussions.[2]

DeBartolo immediately made waves by beginning talks with Dan Marino, the quarterback for the hometown Pitt Panthers (he ultimately signed with the NFL's Miami Dolphins). Joe Pendry, the offensive coordinator for the 1983 finalist Philadelphia Stars, became head coach.

The Maulers opened their home season with a March 11, 1984[4] sellout crowd at Three Rivers Stadium facing the Birmingham Stallions, a team led by Cliff Stoudt, who had spent much of the previous season as the starter for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and had been Terry Bradshaw's backup for years before then. Fans bombarded Stoudt with snowballs and ice whenever the Stallions entered the red zone. The Maulers lost, 30-18, in what would be the team's only sellout.

The team finished 3–15, tying the Washington Federals for the worst record in the league. However, while undermanned, they were not nearly as bad as their record indicated. They were in part victims of a very tough schedule. They played nine games against playoff teams and caught a lot of the other teams when they were hot—Oklahoma and New Orleans early and San Antonio and Jacksonville late. Seven of their losses were by fewer than 10 points.

The team was built around the idea that Dallas Cowboys longtime third-string QB Glenn Carano would be a strong starter in the USFL. To support Carano, the team had RB Mike Rozier–the second straight Heisman Trophy winner to sign with a USFL team–and WR Greg Anderson, who caught 63 passes. Carano had his moments but he struggled overall, completing only 53.7% of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Backup Tom Rozantz was expected to mostly carry a clipboard, but he ended up playing a lot and he struggled as well. However, either would have been a disappointment, as most fans expected the Maulers to pick Steve Young rather than Mike Rozier. Even bringing in former Arizona Wranglers star WR Jackie Flowers did not turn around the offense. The defense, led by CB Jerry Holmes and DE Sam Clancy finished a respectable eighth in points allowed. In spite of this, they were hobbled by a low-octane offense.

In the middle of a 17-7 loss to the Memphis Showboats, DeBartolo told general manager George Heddleston to tell Pendry to yank Carano in favor of backup Tom Rozantz. Pendry refused to do so, even when Carano dislocated his right arm and could not throw without "tremendous pain" shooting through it. A fuming DeBartolo ordered Heddleston and Pendry to meet with him at his office in Youngstown, Ohio the next morning. Pendry refused to come, and quit rather than be fired. Offensive line coach Ellis Rainsberger took over as interim coach for the rest of the season.[5]

They closed the season against Jacksonville in a torrential rainstorm; one sideline was so badly flooded that both teams had to share the other sideline.[5]

1984 Pittsburgh Maulers scheduleEdit

Week Day Date Opponent Game site Attendance Television Final score W/L Record
Preseason
1 Saturday January 28, 1984 at Jacksonville Bulls Gator Bowl Stadium 10,000 0–0 T 0–0–1
2 Bye
3 Saturday February 11, 1984 vs. Washington Federals Melbourne, Florida 6,000 31–7 W 1–0–1
4 Saturday February 18, 1984 vs. Jacksonville Bulls Melbourne, Florida 4,500 13–10 W 2–0–1
Regular Season
1 Sunday February 26, 1984 at Oklahoma Outlaws Skelly Stadium 15,937 3–7 L 0–1
2 Saturday March 3, 1984 at Michigan Panthers Pontiac Silverdome 44,485 ESPN 24–27 L 0–2
3 Sunday March 11, 1984 Birmingham Stallions Three Rivers Stadium 53,771 18–30 L 0–3
4 Sunday March 18, 1984 at Washington Federals RFK Stadium 10,121 16–7 W 1–3
5 Saturday March 24, 1984 Philadelphia Stars Three Rivers Stadium 24,341 ESPN 10–25 L 1–4
6 Sunday April 1, 1984 Oakland Invaders Three Rivers Stadium 22,408 28–14 W 2–4
7 Sunday April 8, 1984 at New Orleans Breakers Louisiana Superdome 39,315 ABC 24–27 L 2–5
8 Saturday April 14, 1984 Denver Gold Three Rivers Stadium 16,773 12–31 L 2–6
9 Sunday April 22, 1984 New Jersey Generals Three Rivers Stadium 14,418 ABC 10–14 L 2–7
10 Friday April 27, 1984 at Memphis Showboats Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium 30,640 7–17 L 2–8
11 Saturday May 5, 1984 at Los Angeles Express Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum 16,789 12–20 L 2–9
12 Saturday May 12, 1984 Houston Gamblers Three Rivers Stadium 24,880 ESPN 26–47 L 2–10
13 Monday May 21, 1984 at New Jersey Generals Giants Stadium 41,212 ESPN 14–16 L 2–11
14 Sunday May 27, 1984 Washington Federals Three Rivers Stadium 15,153 15–6 W 3–11
15 Monday June 4, 1984 at Philadelphia Stars Veterans Stadium 30,102 ESPN 17–23 L 3–12
16 Monday June 11, 1984 San Antonio Gunslingers Three Rivers Stadium 17,148 ESPN 3–21 L 3–13
17 Saturday June 16, 1984 Tampa Bay Bandits Three Rivers Stadium 16,832 9–21 L 3–14
18 Friday June 22, 1984 at Jacksonville Bulls Gator Bowl Stadium 31,843 2–26 L 3–15

Sources[6][7][8][9]

1984 Pittsburgh Maulers rosterEdit

Pittsburgh Maulers roster
Quarterbacks

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive Linemen

Defensive linemen

Linebackers

Corner backs

Safeties

Special teams

Duplicate numbers listed due to roster movement during the season
-- = roster number information unavailable

Vote for a fall schedule kills franchiseEdit

Despite losing millions of dollars and only winning three games, the Maulers were competitive in most games. They also attracted 22,858 per game, a respectable figure—at least by USFL standards—for an expansion team. DeBartolo was determined to stick it out, even going as far as hiring Hank Bullough away from the Green Bay Packers to become the new head coach.[10] The fan support in such a strong sports town such as Pittsburgh can be attributed to a combination of factors. At the time the Maulers arrived, the Steelers were in the middle of an on-field decline following their 1970s dominance. The Penguins were all but invisible in the Pittsburgh market (though the team had just drafted Mario Lemieux). The Pittsburgh Pirates were experiencing an on- and off-field collapse that would be topped off by the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials and the team nearly relocating to Denver.

However, just a few days after Bullough's hiring, the USFL voted to switch to a fall schedule in 1986. DeBartolo was a strong believer in the USFL's original spring football concept, and he knew the Maulers could not hope to go head-to-head against the Steelers. Sharing Three Rivers Stadium would have caused serious logistical problems early in the fall, with the Maulers, Pirates and Steelers fighting for dates. A move to Cleveland, closer to DeBartolo's home in Youngstown, was quickly ruled out; even without the daunting task of going head-to-head with the Cleveland Browns (then a solid playoff team) to consider, it is not likely that Cleveland fans would have accepted a refugee from Pittsburgh.

As a result, just a week after the vote to move to the fall, DeBartolo decided to fold the team without so much as a press conference. He announced that he intended to merge the Maulers with another team. Initially, he struck a merger agreement with the Stars, who had been forced to move to Baltimore after concluding they could not compete with the NFL's Eagles. However, just months later, at the urging of his wife Marie, DeBartolo sold his stake in the Stars and got out of the league entirely.[2] The league's abandonment of Pittsburgh was later cited as a factor in the USFL losing its antitrust suit against the NFL; although it technically won, the jury only awarded it $3 in damages.

Amidst several USFL teams that were "one-season wonders" as a result of relocating, merging with other teams and/or changing team names (all off-season), the Pittsburgh Maulers have the distinction of being the only USFL team to play with no connections to any other cities or teams, neither before nor after their only season.

Single season leadersEdit

Honors and awardsEdit

  • Cornerback Jerry Holmes was selected to the USFL 1984 All-League Team.[11]

Season-by-season resultsEdit

Season W L T Finish Playoff results
Pittsburgh Maulers
1984 3 15 0 T-3rd Atlantic Division
Totals 3 15 0

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "USFL.info: Pittsburgh Maulers Trivia". usfl.info.
  2. ^ a b c Reeths, Paul (2017). The United States Football League, 1982-1986. McFarland & Company. ISBN 1476667446.
  3. ^ http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1121180/2/index.htm
  4. ^ http://cgi.ebay.com/USFL-Pittsburgh-maulers-1st-game-ticket-march-11-1984-/250779303826
  5. ^ a b Pearlman, Jeff (2018). Football For A Buck: The Crazy Rise and Crazier Demise of the USFL. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0544454385.
  6. ^ "Pittsburgh Maulers, United States Football League". funwhileitlasted.net. 27 February 2011.
  7. ^ statscrew.com 1984 Pittsburgh Maulers Game-by-Game Results Retrieved December 16, 2018
  8. ^ usflsite.com 1984 USFL Season Retrieved December 16, 2018
  9. ^ profootballarchives.com 1984 Pittsburgh Maulers (USFL) Retrieved December 16, 2018
  10. ^ "Times Daily - Google News Archive Search". news.google.com.
  11. ^ http://www.remembertheusfl.8m.com/allleague.html


External linksEdit