A look at how the original USFL altered the trajectory of the 1980s Steelers

  • Steelers lost a productive wide receiver to the original USFL
  • The makeup of the '80s Steelers was forever changed
  • The original USFL had a huge impact on the '80s Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers / George Gojkovich/GettyImages
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The Steelers lost a productive wide receiver to the original USFL

If you don't remember the name, Jim Smith, you're probably not alone. Smith was one of our third-round picks in the 1977 draft. Smith played in seventy-three games, starting seventeen of them. In his six-year Steelers career, Smith had one-hundred and ten receptions for two-thousand and seventy-five yards.

Of those one-hundred and ten receptions, twenty-four of them went for TDs. In 1982, Smith led the league in yards per reception with just under twenty-three yards per grab. Why is that important? First and foremost, we lost Smith to the USFL in 1983.

Like Stoudt, Smith enjoyed a pretty stellar career in the USFL. Smith caught two-hundred and twenty-seven passes for just under three-thousand, five hundred and sixty yards. Smith hauled in thirty-one TDs to boot. Considering Lynn Swann retired in 1982, I dare say we could have used Smith's USFL production on the Steelers for the three years Smith played in the USFL.

Considering we drafted three wide receivers in the 1983 draft, I would argue that if Smith had not gone to the USFL, we would not have drafted three wide receivers, instead we maybe would have drafted another defensive player or a player who would have been more productive than two of the three wide receivers that we selected. In 1985, Smith finished his career with the Los Angeles Raiders. I really am left wondering what could have been with a receiving tandem of Smith and John Stallworth. Alas, it was not meant to be.

Let's see who else on the offensive side of the ball we lost to the USFL.