What if I told you that football did not have to end after the Super Bowl? That is very much the reality we are living in as the newfound Alliance of American Football (AAF) have ensured that football continues way past the Super Bowl.
While there is no team located in Pittsburgh, the AAF has a ton of connections to the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting at the top. Former Steelers’ receiver Hines Ward is serving as the league’s Head of Football Direction and former Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu is the AAF’s Head of Player Relations. The league’s relationship to Pittsburgh trickles down from there as there will be many former Steelers in action when the league makes it official debut this weekend.
LB Steven Johnson – Arizona Hotshots
Steven Johnson first signed with the Steelers during the 2016 offseason and played frequently on special teams. Johnson played over 100 special teams snaps during the 2016 season before an ankle injury shut him down. His play was enough to warrant another one-year deal with the team but he ultimately ended up being the odd man out when Le’Veon Bell returned before the 2017 season. The veteran linebacker was then re-signed and cut a few more times before finishing up the year with the Baltimore Ravens.
DB Doran Grant – Atlanta Legends
Doran Grant was drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2015 draft and managed to sneak in three games as a rookie. Grant played just one defensive snap and 17 special team during his rookie year but was cut before his sophomore year. Those would be the last snaps of Grant’s NFL career as he bounced around the league after being cut from the Steelers.
WR L’Damian Washington – Birmingham Iron
Wide receiver L’Damian Washington enjoyed a brief stint with the Steelers after being signed to a futures contract on January 8th 2015. Unfortunately, the 6’4 receiver did not get a real chance to showcase his talents as he was waived from the team’s injury reserve in May after splitting his calf in two. Since then he has bounced around the NFL and had some success north of the border in the CFL.
DT Josh Frazier – Birmingham Iron
Just a few months ago, Josh Frazier was still a member of the Steelers after being drafted in the seventh round by the team during the 2018 draft. Frazier was re-united with former Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar in Pittsburgh but that would not be enough to warrant a roster spot as he was cut before the 2019 season kicked off. A two-time SEC champion with Alabama, Frazier will return to the state and play for the Birmingham Iron.
DE Johnny Maxey – Birmingham Iron
After going undrafted, Johnny Maxey was signed to the Steelers practice squad for the 2016 season. He was activated in time for the team’s huge come from behind win against the Ravens on Christmas day and recorded his lone NFL tackle the following week against the Cleveland Browns. After being cut by the Steelers, Maxey joined many former team mates in Tennessee before ending up in Alabama with the Birmingham Iron.
QB Zach Mettenberger – Memphis Express
Zach Mettenberger was claimed off waivers by the Steelers before the 2016 season and served as the team’s third option quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones. While he never threw a pass as a member of the Steelers, Mettenberger served as good depth as Roethlisberger dealt with injuries during the 2016 season. He was then cut following the selection of Josh Dobbs in the 2017 Draft. Mettenberger was once regarded as a potential starting quarterback and he is a big get for the Memphis Express.
P Brad Wing – Memphis Express
As a member of the Steelers, Brad Wing became the first Australian player in NFL history to score after completing a two-point conversion pass during the 2014 season. Wing was traded to the New York Giants before the 2015 season and was rewarded with a three-year deal during the 2016 offseason. Wing could never live up to his deal though and was cut by the Giants in March 2018.
LB Terence Garvin – Orlando Apollos
Terrence Garvin had a three-year stint with the Steelers after signing as an undrafted free agent following the 2013 Draft. Garvin is perhaps the only former Steeler on this list that will live forever in the memory of Pittsburgh fans after breaking the jaw of Bengals’ punter Kevin Huber during an Antonio Brown touchdown return. While the hit cost Garvin $25,000, the hit will live on forever.
WR Demarcus Ayers – San Antonio Commanders
Perhaps no player on this list warranted more optimism than wide receiver Demarcus Ayers. Drafted by the Steelers in the seventh round, Ayers recorded six receptions for 53 yards along with one touchdown during his rookie season. Ayers showed open field ability and elusiveness during his limited action and the arrow seemed to be pointed up on his sophomore year. Unfortunately, Ayers was cut before the 2017 season and elected to join the practice squad of the New England Patriots over the Steelers. He would then bounce around the practice squads of the Patriots and Chicago Bears but would not step on to an NFL field again.
RB Terrell Watson – San Diego Fleet
Terrell Watson’s story with the Steelers is a surprising one. Watson signed with the Steelers during the 2017 offseason and was competing against a crowded running back room for the team’s third running back spot. In a shocker, Watson was able to not only win the final running back roster spot but was even named the team’s short yardage back. At 240 pounds, Watson had the size for the role but was also able to contribute on special teams, returning seven kicks for 140 yards.
LB Travis Feeney – San Diego Fleet
Travis Feeney was another intriguing prospect that the Steelers drafted during the 2016 NFL Draft. An undersized pass rusher with immense athleticism, the Steelers took Feeney in the sixth round and were hoping to be able to stash him on their practice squad. The New Orleans Saints had also realized Feeney’s potential and signed the rookie linebacker from the Steelers’ practice squad in December of that year. Feeney was never able to show off his athleticism as his injuries proved too much to overcome. He will now get a second chance to showcase himself with the San Diego Fleet.