Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Philadelphia Stars | Week 7 Preview

Pittsburgh Maulers vs. Philadelphia Stars | Week 7 Preview

Week seven in the USFL continues late on Saturday night, as the Pittsburgh Maulers host the Philadelphia Stars.

This matchup will prove to be pivotal in the North Division. Right now, the Philadelphia Stars lead the North with a 3-3 record, winning two straight. After dropping to fourth in the division, Bart Andrus has the team back on track.

The Pittsburgh Maulers are coming off a rough shutout loss at the hands of the Memphis Showboats. They now sit at 2-4 – but, they already beat Philadelphia once this season. If they can sweep the series, that puts them in a position to make a playoff push down the stretch.

Lets take a look at the key factors heading into this game, and what we can expect across the board.

Prior Matchup

When these two teams faced off in week three, it was a dominant effort from the Pittsburgh Maulers. While the final score was 21-13, throughout the entirety of the game, Pittsburgh was in control.

Troy Williams saw his first start in that outing, helping lead the team to a road win. Chris Blewitt was the man of the hour, knocking through five field goals to keep the Maulers in front.

This game was a slug-fest. Both teams barely compiled over 200 yards on the day, as the defenses were relentless from start to finish. LB Reuben Foster had a field day for Pittsburgh, leading the way with 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 PD, and an interception.

Quarterback Play

It will be intriguing to see how the quarterbacks perform this weekend. Both Troy Williams and Case Cookus have had some excellent moments in the USFL, while also struggling to perform consistently throughout the season.

Cookus, in particular, has struggled to protect the football. Hes thrown seven interceptions through six weeks, making some questionable decisions. With the offense unable to find their groove, Case has tried to do a bit too much at times.

Meanwhile, Troy Williams has provided a spark to Pittsburghs offense. Its no surprise that they picked up their first win of the season, when Troy finally got the green light.

However, he hasnt been able to fully settle into the offense with Ray Horton quite yet. Last week was an example of just that, as Memphis seemed to have his number all day long. Philadelphia hasnt always been able to slow down mobile quarterbacks, so Williams will have to look to use his legs often, as he did a few weeks ago.

Standout Playmakers

There is no shortage of talent for either team in the USFL. To start with, the Philadelphia Stars feature some of the leagues premier playmakers on the offensive side of the football.

Matt Colburn and Dexter Williams are an incredible backfield. While it hasnt been an ideal start to the season, last week proved that the duo can do damage, when the offensive line provides them with the proper protection and blocking.

Corey Coleman, Diondre Overton, and Devin Gray have been consistent for Case Cookus all year long. With the team missing Jordan Suell and Chris Rowland down the stretch, theyre going to need more production from their trio of wide receivers. Coleman, the former NFL first rounder, is proving his worth to the team – constantly making something happen for the Stars.

On the other hand, Pittsburgh will have to hope their wide outs can get into a groove on Saturday. Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither are remarkably talented, but were held in check last week. Isiah Hennie was sensational, recording eight catches for 103 yards.

If Pittsburgh cant run the football, theyre in trouble. Against Memphis, the team combined for just 56 yards on the ground, averaging 3.3 YPC. The team needs to see more production from Madre London and Garrett Groshek moving forward.

Defenses On Top

Something we can certainly expect in Saturdays matchup, is for both defenses to be playing at a high level. Pittsburghs defense has been their rock and foundation all season long. Across the board, the amount of high-level defenders they have is simply ridiculous. Jarren Horton has built arguably the best defense in the entire USFL, as they show up week in and week out.

Up front, its tough to slow down the attack of Boogie Roberts, Olive Sagapolu, Kyahva Tezino, Reuben Foster, etc. – but, if a team attempts to pass – Arnold Tarpley, Mark Gilbert, Bryce Torneden, and plenty of others are lurking in the secondary. If Philadelphia plays like they did in week three, its going to be tough for them to score against this unit.

With that being said, the Philadelphia Stars might have the hottest defense in the league, at least looking at the past two weeks. After giving up 41 points to the Houston Gamblers in week four, this group has rediscovered their swagger.

Amani Dennis is someone who has to be highlighted. Hes been one of the elite corners in the USFL this season, and a top performer for the Stars. His pick six against the Breakers willed the team to victory in week six.

Meanwhile, the defensive line has finally been able to generate pressure. New Orleans has one of the top offenses in the league, but Philadelphia effectively shut down McLeod Bethel-Thompson, and Wes Hills, which is an impressive feat.

The Stars defense has to find a way to contain Troy Williams. In week three, Williams consistently found a way to escape the pocket, stretching plays out with his legs. However, the team adjusted in week five, playing better defense against DeAndre Johnson. Considering Pittsburghs ground game is practically non existent outside of Troy, the Stars will be in excellent shape if they can simply keep him in the pocket.

Coaching Matchup

Philadelphia Stars | Bart Andrus: It hasnt been a perfect season by any means for Bart Andrus. However, his team has won two in a row, shockingly jumping from fourth to first in the North Division. Andrus has to find a way to get his offense in a rhythm, as they havent scored a touchdown in two straight weeks.

Pittsburgh Maulers | Ray Horton: For the first time, the Pittsburgh Maulers were shut out. Ray Horton has impressed in his head coaching debut, but looked out of sorts against Memphis a week ago. This weekend will be a true test for Horton, as his team faces a crucial turning point in the season.

Final Thoughts

If these trends continue in the same direction, the Philadelphia Stars do feel like the slight favorites in this one. Their offense has been stuck in a rut – yet – theyve still found a way to win two straight. If this is the game where Cookus and the Stars wake up夷t could get ugly.

That being said, Pittsburgh has already beat this team once. If they can replicate what they did right in week three, the season sweep is in their hands.

The Pittsburgh Maulers will host the Philadelphia Stars on Saturday night, at 9pm ET on FS1.

What are your thoughts on this upcoming USFL matchup between the Philadelphia Stars and Pittsburgh Maulers? Which USFL players will perform well? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

  1. I think James did good work with a read on this. First of all, what a tough game to call. If the Maulers d-line gets off the line and causes have havoc for the Stars O-line, trouble will be that stat of the day. Mark Gilbert could sit on Corey Coleman, if he is able to play the other corner spot and Case Cookus will have a lack of time and weapons. I have been imploring Troy Williams to be a complete QB, but we are at a place where if he must run to win the game, he just needs to. It would be good to see if the line can initiate the contact in the trenches and open holes for Groshek and co. I like Groshek running up the middle with traps and off the edge with pulling, but on the outside I like him to catch the ball there. He is twice the ball-player he was last year. Between poor run-blocking and uncommitted approach to the run game, he is rarely put in a place to succeed. That stated I give kudos for sticking with him and understanding that he is doing everything right for the team and improves in games they have a chance to win. I think this was going to be Madre Londons break out year, but that has not happened. I am hopeful they will be able to figure something out.

  2. The Stars sticking with Cookus is crazy. 5 TD passes and 7 picks? He makes terrible decisions, he’s got happy feet and lacks quickness and pocket awareness. Kevin Thomson is a much better choice to lead this team moving forward. Thomson makes the Stars offense much more dangerous and the team a legitimate contender.

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