Several Former Steelers Make XFL Debut Saturday

The NFL season might be over but the return of the XFL is just getting started. In the league’s first action since 2020, and under new ownership highlighted by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, several former Pittsburgh Steelers took part in the league’s new season Saturday.

Two games kicked off Week One. In the first contest, the Arlington Renegades edged out the Vegas Vipers 22-20. For Steelers’ fans, the biggest name playing Saturday was WR Martavis Bryant, once a bright star before being suspended multiple times in the NFL and falling out of the league. Bryant’s debut for the Vipers was a relatively quiet one, catching four passes on nine targets for 28 yards.

But Bryant wasn’t the only Steeler to see action in the opener. Fellow WR Mathew Sexton caught two passes for 27 yards and returned one punt for 17 yards.

On the other side, the Renegades had WR Tyler Vaughns, a summer star for the Steelers in 2022 who curiously didn’t latch on with Pittsburgh or anyone else. He led the Renegades in receptions and yards, four grabs for 38 yards. While not a former Steeler, RB De’Veon Smith of Pittsburgh Maulers (and chicken salad/pizza) fame, carried the ball 15 times for an inefficient 42 yards. Defensively, CB Shakur Brown, briefly an UDFA out of Michigan State in 2021, had three tackles.

In the nightcap, the Houston Roughnecks blew out the Orlando Guardians 33-12. Former Denver Broncos’ first round pick and one-time Steelers’ practice squader QB Paxton Lynch started for the Guardians and went 15/21 for 136 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The touchdown came in controversial fashion, connecting with WR Cody Latimer on a play that could’ve easily been ruled an interception.

But Lynch struggled throughout and was eventually benched in the second half, a reminder he was one of the worst first-round picks of this century. Former Steelers’ wideout Eli Rogers had a decently productive day, catching four passes for 40 yards. Defensively, linebacker Tegray Scales finished second on the team with five tackles.

For the Roughnecks, RB Max Borghi carried the ball eight times for 42 yards and one score. He was briefly in Steelers’ camp this past summer after the team suffered multiple injuries to the position. His touchdown run was an impressive 27-yard score.

Former Steelers’ second round pick safety/linebacker Sean Davis chipped in five tackles while CB Alexander Myers had a tackle, sack, and fumble recovery.

The XFL will play two more games Sunday, kicking off at 3 and 6 PM/EST. Attendance appeared relatively low for the opener but fans enjoyed the league’s transparency with its booth reviews and the ability for each time to challenge any call on the field once per game. For example, there was a challenge regarding a defensive offside in the Vipers/Renegades contest, though the call ultimately stood.

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