|Founded||March 7, 1983|
|Folded||October 26, 1984|
|Based in||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Home field||Three Rivers Stadium|
|Team History||Pittsburgh Maulers (1983–1984)|
|Team Colors||Purple, Renaissance Red, Gray, White
|Head coaches||Joe Pendry (2–8)
Ellis Rainsberger (interim) (1–7)
|Owner(s)||Edward J. DeBartolo, Sr.|
The Pittsburgh Maulers 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.
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.
No one was surprised when two groups filed for a Pittsburgh franchise in the winter of 1983. DeBartolo, Sr. was one of them—a considerable surprise, given his son's ownership of the 49ers. However, once he did apply, the other owners knew that he would lend the upstart league instant credibility and quickly approved his bid. Unusually, DeBartolo applied for the franchise in his own name rather than setting up a corporation or partnership. In fact, the NFL itself was threatening 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.
The Maulers opened their season with a March 11, 1984 sellout crowd at Three Rivers Stadium facing the Birmingham Stallions team with former longtime Terry Bradshaw backup and 1982 starting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Cliff Stoudt. Stoudt had his former fans pelt him with snowballs and ice during the game. It would be the teams 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.
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 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. Head coach Joe Pendry was fired ten games into the season and he was replaced by offensive line coach Ellis Rainsberger on an interim basis. 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.
1984 Pittsburgh Maulers roster
Pittsburgh Maulers roster
Duplicate numbers listed due to roster movement during the season
Vote for a fall schedule kills franchise
Despite losing millions of dollars and only winning three games, the Maulers were competitive in most games and they had reasonable fan support for a first year team. DeBartolo was determined to stick it out, even going as far as hiring Hank Bullough away from the Buffalo Bills to become the new head coach.
However, just a few days later the USFL announced that they were switching 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. A move to Cleveland, closer to DeBartolo's home in Youngstown, was quickly ruled out; even without the daunting task of competing with the Cleveland Browns 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 folded the franchise without so much as a press conference. 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.
Single season leaders
- Rushing yards: 792 (1984), Mike Rozier
- Receiving yards: 994 (1984), Greg Anderson
- Passing yards: 2368 (1984), Glenn Carano
- CB Jerry Holmes was selected to the "All League Team".
- Pittsburgh Maulers on FunWhileItLasted.net
- Remember The USFL: Pittsburgh Maulers
- Our Sports Central: Pittsburgh Maulers
- Steeler Chief: Pittsburgh Maulers