Former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs coach Ray Horton is back in the city—at least nominally—although not in the NFL, to coach football. He enters this year as the head coach for the Pittsburgh Maulers, the USFL outshoot who was the worst team in the upstart league a year ago under another former Steelers assistant, Kirby Wilson.
In spite of the Maulers’ 1-9 record, however, they didn’t clean house; in fact, Wilson resigned. But his staff remained largely intact, including Jarren Horton—Ray’s son. He tells Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that that is the true reason he decided to take the job.
Posing himself the question of whether he took the job to fulfill the ambition of being the head coach of a football team or to have the opportunity to work with Jarren, he told Rutter, “it was to work with my son and not to be a head coach”.
Not that the former isn’t also important to him. After all, he remains a part of the racial discrimination lawsuit originally filed by current Steelers senior defensive assistant Brian Flores. While he had multiple opportunities to act as defensive coordinator after leaving Pittsburgh, he never got that head coaching job. Now he has that opportunity in the USFL, and with Jarren.
“To give me — a guy who looks like me — an opportunity to have a legacy with my son, that is important”, he said, adding of Jarren that he “is way ahead of me. He’s going to kick me out of the league, he’s that good”. USFL executive director Daryl Johnston also told Rutter that Horton’s son was in consideration for an internal promotion to head coach.
The younger Horton remains the Maulers’ defensive coordinator. Former Steelers h-back Will Johnson is their running backs coach, as well. In yet another Pittsburgh connection, they recently announced that they would be changing their colors to the black and gold familiar with the city’s other sports franchises.
The real mystery for the USFL, however, is going to be what the season looks like. Being an upstart league is precarious enough. They are attempting to be the first major upstart in quite some time to initiate a second season, let alone complete one.
Now they will also be competing against the third incarnation of the XFL, which fairly recently held its draft, featuring many players who were in the USFL last year. One has to wonder if there is enough talent to go around to make two alternative leagues compelling enough to draw enough engagement.
It will be up to Horton, and his son, to oversee the Maulers this year as they try to build a competitive product that can draw attention. Whatever comes, though, Ray will not have any regrets for having taken this opportunity.