With the announcement of the proposed merger between the USFL and the XFL, I was made to wonder about how the inception of the original USFL forever changed the trajectory of the 1980s Steelers. To be fair, we will really never know what would have become of the 1980s Steelers had the USFL never existed.
Nonetheless, I think it's an interesting exercise to undertake given the fact that several Steelers players as well as several players from other teams elected to 'test the waters' and join the fledgling league. Although the original USFL lasted for only a few seasons, it had a profound impact not only on the Steelers but on the rest of the NFL as well.
Let's take a look at how the original USFL altered the makeup of the Steelers offense.
The Steelers lost and probably lost out on several players whose impact was and could have been significant
The player whose loss arguably had the most devasting impact on the '80s Steelers was Cliff Stoudt. Now, I know what you're thinking. I can't possibly be talking about the same Cliff Stoudt who spent four seasons with us and who started a whopping sixteen games.
Yes, I am talking about the very same Cliff Stoudt. The only season that really mattered to me was the 1983 season. Stoudt started fifteen games and came in in relief of Terry Bradshaw in a game against the New York Jets after Bradshaw suffered what would ultimately be a career-ending injury.
If you think about the career that Stoudt had with us, it's fair to say it was pretty uneventful, but in 1983, we finished with a record of ten wins, and six losses and lost in the AFC Divisional round of the playoffs to the then Los Angeles Raiders, the eventual Super Bowl champs.
So, I guess the real question is this: how would Stoudt have altered the trajectory of the Steelers after the 1983 season? Well, in 1984, we went to the AFC Championship game with a combination of Mark Malone and David Woodley.
I am not saying we would have won that championship game, but I think we would have probably had a better regular season and maybe would have hosted a playoff game rather than having to play on the road. With confidence, anything is possible, so perhaps we would have beaten the Dolphins.
Stoudt had a really good career in the USFL, throwing for just under sixty-five hundred yards, sixty TDs, and twenty-six INTs. Who's to say that production would have happened for us had he not gone to the USFL?
Considering Stoudt was only twenty-eight years old in 1983, I dare say that he probably had at least four or five good seasons after the 1983 season. Although Malone was already on the roster in 1983, maybe things would have played out differently in the ensuing seasons.
Consider this, from 1984 through 1989, the Steelers won forty-four games. I think we would have won some more games had Stoudt been the QB. I also think that we would have drafted another QB at some point later in the decade who may have been able to take the reins from Stoudt.
Let's see who else we lost to the USFL on the offensive side of the ball.