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USFL Team in Turmoil: The Pittsburgh Maulers 2022 Season Recap

The Pittsburgh Maulers started their season with a sour taste in the eyes of the fans of not only the Pittsburgh Maulers but the fans of the USFL in general. On the first debut episode of the USFL show “United by Football,” there was an incident between Coach Kirby Wilson and former Pittsburgh Maulers Running Back De’Veon Smith, who was, brought in to speak with the coach due to what Wilson stated as Smith “crossed the line. so, we had to deal with it.”

He ended up cutting Smith because of what he described that he did not want to eat chicken salad and asked an employee for a piece of pizza; the staff member said no and asked Smith if that was going to be an issue? Smith told Coach Wilson that he replied yes in a calm way.

Overall, Coach Wilson let Smith go over a stupid situation named “Chicken Salad Gate” by the public. It quickly spread on social media before the postponed Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Tampa Bay Bandit game that moved to Monday night during week one of the USFL; Coach Wilson already hated it. Everyone wanted the team to lose every game.

Critics of Wilson did not know in the long run they’d get the that the Pittsburgh Maulers would lose all but one game throughout the 2022 season. With #FireKirbyWilson trending throughout the season, we have constantly seen many negative interactions between himself and players on the sidelines, game after game, getting yelled at and even benched for not listening to Coach Wilson.

He comes off on television as very stand-offish and not having much connection with his players. Is this all for tv? or is this how Kirby Wilson is in real life as a coach? No one knows except those players on the team.

Pittsburgh Maulers Quarterback Issues

When the Pittsburgh Maulers went into the 2022 USFL Draft, they drafted Kyle Lauletta in the draft’s first round and then selected Joshua Love in the 12th round as their second quarterback. The issues arose when both quarterbacks played in the first game and went for 11/26, only throwing for 129 yards with no touchdowns. Joshua Love and Kyle Lauletta would continue on a downward spiral, struggling. Love would only throw two touchdowns and two interceptions and play in weeks one through three before being released by the team on May 10th after week four was picked up on waivers by the Michigan Panthers. 

Kyle Lauletta would play in four games, and starting only two, he would throw zero touchdowns for the Maulers. The Maulers would also release him after signing Free Agent Roland Rivers III on May 25th, 2022. He would be signed off of waivers by the New Jersey Generals.

The rest of the season went to Vad Lee and Roland Rivers III; Vad Lee would play in a total of 5 games, where Rivers would play in a total of 4. Vad Lee was responsible for the only Pittsburgh Maulers win in week five against the Houston Gamblers after coming in for Kyle Lauletta. He would lead the team in week 5 to victory with 170 yards and 2 touchdowns with 1 Interception. Total Vad Lee would be responsible for 6 Touchdowns over those games but would also throw the same amount of Interceptions.

On the other hand, Roland Rivers III would be responsible for 2 touchdowns over the season and 1 interception. The biggest problem we all saw play out over live television during games was the struggle with Coach Kirby Wilson trusting any of his quarterbacks who stepped foot on the field. Anytime there would be a screw-up with quarterbacks or other players on the field, he would chew them out and tell them this was pro football. It seemed like none of his players or Quarterbacks, in particular, were ever trusted, which was a big downfall for the amount of talent they had between Love, Lauletta, Lee, and Rivers.

The Offense

The offense for the Maulers would struggle throughout the entire season, but there were some well-known leaders that at least we were making the best out of what they had in front of them; Vad lee would throw for the most yards for the team of 729 and score the most touchdowns with 6. Madre London was a massive stand-out, rushing for 415 yards and one touchdown. Between himself and Garrett Groshek, they would be the two carrying the team as runningbacks, whereas Groshek was right behind London with 329 yards with one touchdown.

Tre Walker, Bailey Gaither, and Delvon Hardaway were the three stand-out wide receivers for the Maulers. Tre Walker led the team in receptions and yards with 33 receptions and 362 yards, only bringing in 1 touchdown. Bailey Gaither led the team in touchdowns for the receiving core with 4; he would catch 24 passes for 328 yards. Delvon Hardaway also was a target bringing in 288 yards on 23 passes but did not have any touchdowns.

The Defense

The defense for the Maulers this season wasn’t too bad; the reason was responsible for 7 interceptions, 10 fumbles, 2 defensive touchdowns 18 sacks. Kyahva Tezino led the team in total tackles coming in with 86 total tackles. In the 9 games he played, he would get 2.5 sacks with 1 interception. Boggie Roberts was another defensive player that stood out not only on the field but off the field for his appearances on United by Football, along with graduating college during the season. Boogie Roberts completed 24 total tackles during the season. He was a stand-out player, constantly standing up for his teammates during games to the point he got suspended for one game due to pulling another team player off his teammate in what he appeared to drag the player, which cost him one game.

The only member of the All-USFL 2022 team from the Pittsburgh Maulers was Safety Bryce Torneden, who played in all 10 games and had 70 total tackles, 1 Interception, and 1 forced fumble. He shined all season long for the Maulers and showed up to be named part of the All-USFL team.

Special Teams

Kicker Ramiz Ahmed was one of the few kickers that played all 10 games for the same team and made a difference for their team. He accounted for 49 points for the Maulers and was 14/22 in Field Goals. He holds the record for the longest Field Goal at 61 yards. Ahmed also went 7/10 on extra points. Ahmed and Max Duffy shared the kicking duties where Ahmed had 37 Kick offs for 2,612 yards averaging 70.6 yards, while Duffy had 43 Punts for 1,852 yards, with his longest being 68 yards long, with 12 of those being within the 20-yard line and 4 touchbacks.

Tre Walker leads the special teams with 26 kick returns for 645 yards averaging 24.8, with his longest being 50 yards. Hennie and Bonds took the rest of the returns with a combined 11 kick-off returns for 241 yards. Unfortunately, the Maulers did not have any touchdowns during kick returns during the season, which I believe could have been a big morale booster for the team if they could have pulled off some kickoff or punt returns for touchdowns.

What needs to happen for The Maulers Next Season

The biggest thing I think needs to happen for the Maulers to be successful is for the USFL to fire Kirby Wilson and his coaching staff and start from scratch. I believe that if they kept Vad Lee and Roland Rivers III with the right coaching staff, they could have a pretty solid team going into 2023. They need leadership that believes in them and coaches them; unlike Kirby Wilson, we see this coaching across the USFL with Mike Riley, Bart Andrus, and Skip Holtz, who all have to lead their teams to the playoffs, and the now two of them are headed to the championship in one week. Sticking with one Quarterback and working with that starter to build a trust system between the head coach could assist in not switching between quarterbacks because you don’t trust them after a slight mistake or misunderstanding. A Quarterback system with trust and not switching off and on when your offense may not be a hundred percent content with switching back and forth as the Maulers did throughout the exceptionally long season.

The Maulers could also do the change the culture of the team would be to build their defensive lineup not to allow as many points this year; the Maulers gave up 243 points throughout the 2022 season, which can’t happen when your offense is struggling even to get the ball into the endzone.

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