While a lot of Pittsburgh Steelers and NFL fans in general have a tendency to want to scoff at upstart football leagues, the reality has actually been that the Steelers have been among the teams to pay the most attention.
Last offseason, for example, they were among the teams to sign the most players from the Alliance of American Football after that league folded, something like half a dozen players. Two of those players ended up spending time on the 53-man roster, including safety Kameron Kelly, who even started a game. Interior lineman J.C. Hassenauer was promoted to the 53-man roster at the end of the season.
Oh, and don’t forget they were the team who signed Tommy Maddox, who was the star of the original incarnation of the XFL. He ended up winning the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award, though soon after he played poorly enough to put the team in position to draft Ben Roethlisberger.
The AAF is gone, but the XFL is back, and Pittsburgh is still paying attention. How do I know this? Because general manager Kevin Colbert said so, according to Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. After all, we already know they tried to re-sign Landry Jones last season. If they sign any quarterback this offseason, it would be him.
“The XFL has taken some of the guys we would have signed as futures”, Colbert said in a remark very much reminiscent to his comments he made regarding the AAF around this time a year ago. “We’ll have to do more work on undrafted guys because of that. Traditionally, we sign about 15, but we might have to sign 20-22”.
The difference is that the XFL is not going to fold this offseason the way the AAF did. I’m not sure exactly at which point at the end of the XFL season players under contract with them will be allowed to sign with an NFL team, but at the very earliest, it would come very close to the draft.
“We got an initial feel for that group, and we’ll continue to monitor those teams throughout the season”, Colbert said. Some players that the team had on the 90-man roster from the AAF at some point last year, like Winston Craig and Jack Tocho, are currently in the XFL, and they have shown a willingness to bring back players that they have cut before.
The XFL is just two games into its inaugural regular season. Things have generally been positive, but it’s still very early. Outside of the quality of the quarterback play, the response has been good, especially regarding some innovations the league is making. Having all of their games on significant television channels will be an asset.