Steven Leroy DeBerg (born January 19, 1954) is a retired American footballquarterback. His career spanned 21 years over 3 decades. Although large portions of his career were spent as a backup, DeBerg ultimately accumulated some impressive NFL statistics, particularly during the early 1990s, when he was the starting QB for the Kansas City Chiefs.
DeBerg was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 10th round (275th overall) of the 1977 NFL Draft, but was waived before the start of the season. On September 14, 1977, he was signed to the San Francisco 49erstaxi squad. Head coach Bill Walsh took over the team and in 1979 and 1980, DeBerg set several records for number of passing attempts and completions. However, when Walsh drafted Joe Montana from Notre Dame, DeBerg was relegated to a backup role midway during the 1980 season.
He was traded to Denver Broncos on August 31, 1981, in exchange for a 1983 fourth round draft pick (#87), but similar events unfolded again and again over the next decade: He was not only with the 49ers when they drafted Joe Montana, but also with the Broncos when John Elway was drafted. On April 24, 1984, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a fourth round pick (#89), and a 1986 conditional pick. He arrived at the club at a time when both Steve Young and Vinny Testaverde were drafted. On March 31, 1988, the Buccaneers traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for safety Mark Robinson, a fourth round and an eighth round pick.
Although he is remembered as a journeyman quarterback, DeBerg passed for over 34,000 career yards, and ranks in the top 20 all-time for attempts, completions, and yards passing. His best years were with the Chiefs, during which he led the team to two playoff berths and had his best year in 1990 with a 96.3 quarterback rating, passing for 3,444 yards, 23 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions, with 3 of those interceptions coming in one game. Throughout his career, he was frequently noted as one of the best play-action pass quarterbacks of all time.Peyton Manning has studied films of DeBerg's play-action technique.
During his career, DeBerg also acquired a reputation for playing through particularly gruesome or unique injuries. He played with laryngitis and wore a portable amplifier during regular season games with San Francisco. He also played with a broken non-throwing hand and an exposed metal pin sticking out of his finger in a Chiefs playoff game in 1990. In 1993, he left a Dolphins game versus the New York Giants battered and bloodied after taking a helmet to the chin, only to return to the game following halftime. Earlier in the season, he started in place of Dan Marino in the infamous Thanksgiving game where Leon Lett's blunder resulted in a Dolphins win.
He retired after the 1993 season, but briefly returned to the NFL in 1998, at age 44, as a backup with the Atlanta Falcons. On October 25, with Chris Chandler unable to play, Deberg became the oldest quarterback to ever start an NFL game when he led the Falcons against the New York Jets. He also became the oldest player ever included on a Super Bowl roster, at the age of 45 years, 12 days, when the Falcons appeared in Super Bowl XXXIII, though he did not play in the game.
He has now been inducted to the Rebel hall of fame at Savanna High School, for his achievements as a starting quarterback in the NFL, on February 5, 2010 during halftime at a varsity boys basketball game at Savanna High School.