It’s extraordinarily rare for an NFL first-round pick to get cut before playing a snap with a team, but that doesn’t mean that the fear of getting cut doesn’t exist within the draftee. Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and Hall of Honor inductee Louis Lipps, who the team drafted 23rd overall in the 1984 NFL Draft, told Bob Pompeani in an interview for Steelers.com that the fear of getting cut was a motivating factor for him during his first training camp in Pittsburgh.
“I was gonna make it worth the while. And that’s what I did. The first thing on my mind was I can’t get cut,” Lipps said. “First round just meant that you got picked early. That don’t mean that you’re automatically on the team. That was the first thing on my mind, I said ‘man, I can’t get cut, if I go home my boys are just going to rip me apart.’”
He told a story about not wanting to take a break during training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. due to that fear of getting cut, before being assured by his teammates that his status as a first-round pick made his spot on the team safe.
Lipps was someone who made an immediate impact for Pittsburgh, catching 45 balls for 860 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie while also adding one of his four career rushing touchdowns en route to winning Rookie of The Year honors. He was also a second-team All-Pro and a Pro Bowler. He was also a prolific special teamer, with a league-leading 656 punt return yards as a rookie with two touchdowns. Lipps didn’t experience a sophomore slump during his second year with the Steelers, as he increased his output to 59 receptions for 1,134 yards and 12 touchdowns. He once again was named a second-team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl. He again had a solid year on special teams, with 437 punt return yards and two touchdowns. Lipps’ numbers fell off a bit after that 1985 season, but he did put in 973 yards during the 1988 season and 944 yards in 1989.
Unless something off the field necessitated it, there was no way Lipps was going to get cut before playing his rookie season. But if that mindset worked as a motivating factor, I’m pretty sure the Steelers didn’t mind him being wary of the possibility. He went on to spend eight mostly successful seasons in Pittsburgh, and while he never quite lived up to the promise he showed in his first two years in the league, his inclusion in the team’s Hall of Honor shows the impact he made on the 1980s Steelers. He returned to his native Louisiana in 1992 with the New Orleans Saints, but he caught just one ball during his two-game tenure in New Orleans.
The Steelers’ rich history at wide receiver makes Lipps a name somewhat forgotten about when you look at Pittsburgh’s history at the position, but he was certainly a talented player for Pittsburgh. His inclusion in the Hall of Honor was well-deserved, and he is one of the more memorable players from a lot of forgettable 1980s Steelers teams.