If you haven’t noticed yet, the Birmingham Iron has become Steelers Depot’s de facto Alliance of American Football team over the course of the past month. The Pittsburgh Steelers are among the Iron’s four NFL affiliate teams, which simply means that when a player who most recently played for the Steelers signs up to play in the AAF, they will be allocated originally to Birmingham.
That is why several former Steelers players line their roster. At last count, if memory serves, they have about 10 players who were employed by the team for some period of time, even if only during the offseason or on the practice squad. Among those players are tight end Weslye Saunders, cornerback Jamar Summers, and defensive linemen Casey Sayles and Johnny Maxey.
The Iron got off to a great start in their inaugural season, marching out to an early 3-0 record. Entering Week Four, they were one of two unbeaten teams, but they were handed their first loss last night, defeated by the San Antonio Commanders, leaving the Orlando Apollos as the final unbeaten team.
That is in spite of the fact that they were able to make things interesting late, with the game ultimately ending with a 12-11 final score. It had been 3-3 for much of the game, but the Commanders scored a touchdown late, missing the two-point attempt, before adding a field goal.
The Iron scored their only touchdown—yet another Trent Richardson run, his seventh—and picked up the two-point conversion to make it 12-11, but that’s where it would end. In lieu of an onside kick, teams in the AAF are awarded the football at their own 28-yard line on fourth and 12.
This was one of the first instances in the AAF in which this onside kick alternative was tested, but unfortunately quarterback Luis Perez was intercepted looking for former Steelers wide receiver L’Damian Washington to seal the game—tackled by former Steelers running back LaDarius Perkins.
Perez completed just 19 of 39 pass attempts for 202 yards and threw two interceptions, giving him three on the season. He has yet to throw a touchdown pass—in fact, all of the Iron’s touchdowns have been scored by Richardson, all rushes.
Birmingham’s calling card to date has been its defense, which has alternated between being stifling and bend-but-don’t-break. Yesterday’s game was more of the latter until they finally broke late. But even after that, on the subsequent final field goal, that only came following a six-play goal-line stand. Summers was flagged for defensive pass interference on third and goal from the two-yard line but the defense stuffed them again on three straight plays.
Five of those six plays, all from the one-yard line, were rushing attempts by Kenneth Farrow, who rushed for 142 yards on 30 attempts in the game. He was stopped for no gain three times and for a loss of one twice, Sayles making the final third-and-one tackle for a loss of one that forced the field goal and kept the Iron in the game with 4:01 to play.