The makeup of the Steelers of the 1980s was forever changed by the 'upstart' USFL
When the USFL kicked off its inaugural season in 1983, I was fourteen years old. The Steelers won Super Bowl number four in 1979, so we were not that far removed from the last time we had hoisted the Vince Lombardi trophy.
The decade of the 1980s was already shaping up to be a difficult one for us amid the retirements of some of our key players who were part of those 1970s Super Bowl teams. When 1983 rolled around, we and several other teams lost significant contributors to the USFL.
Make no mistake, the original USFL was a league that featured not only prominent former NFL players but also players who would go on to play in the NFL and would eventually end their careers being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
There was no lack of talent in the original USFL and the NFL suffered as a result. As with any hypothetical discussion, we will truly never know definitively what would have been for the Steelers of the 1980s had the USFL not existed.
I believe we can argue that we have a pretty good idea as to what could have been since anything is possible. So, is it possible the 1984 Steelers would have beaten the Miami Dolphins in the 1984 AFC Championship Game with Cliff Stoudt at QB? Yes, it is.
Is it possible that had we not lost Smith, McGriff, Pinney, and Thornton, we would have won some more games that would have led to some more playoff appearances? Yes, it is. I think you get my point. The USFL forever changed the trajectory of the 1980s Steelers.