USFL Power Rankings: Pittsburgh Remains Winless Through Four Weeks

USFL Power Rankings: Pittsburgh Remains Winless Through Four Weeks

We are officially through four weeks in the USFL. In that span, we have learned quite a bit about each team, and what to expect from them as the season continues.

Fans were treated to plenty of entertaining football, as every game was decided by only one score. As expected, the league’s best squads were looking sharp this weekend.

Let’s take a look at the power rankings after week four, and things each team can improve upon moving forward. With the season’s halfway point quickly approaching, there is no time to waste.

#8: Pittsburgh Maulers (0-4)

Ah, Pittsburgh…Pittsburgh. Where do we even start? Ever since the inaugural kickoff, the Maulers have been the butt of almost every single joke surrounding the league. With pizzagate, Kirby Wilson’s antics – and an 0-4 record, it’s impossible to put Pittsburgh anywhere except eighth place.

It’s unfortunate, because the Maulers do possess talent on both sides of the football. Quite frankly, the team has never built a winning formula – and Wilson is certainly to blame. He has not found a way to get either quarterback into a rhythm, leading to poor offensive play every week. Madre London is the sole bright spot offensively, but hasn’t done much in the grand scheme of things.

To put it simply, Wilson has to put together something to give Pittsburgh a bit of life. If the team is still winless after five weeks, it’s safe to say their season is over. The Maulers did release Josh Love, signing Vad Lee in his place. We’ll see if that can spark Pittsburgh’s offense, at least a bit.

Next Up: Houston. Pittsburgh will face off against another team that cannot close the fourth quarter well. If the Maulers defense can put consistent pressure on Thorson, Pittsburgh might actually be able to steal one here.

#7: Houston Gamblers (1-3)

Every single week, Houston has been in a position to win. Yet, the team sits at the bottom of their division, unable to figure things out down the stretch. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that they don’t have a closer. Houston does not have that ‘go to guy’ – someone who can provide the team with stability in the fourth quarter.

It’s a shame, because the team has so much talent. Clayton Thorson isn’t fantastic, but has shown some growth over the short season. Mark Thompson is an excellent back, albeit a poor outing on Sunday. Isaiah Zuber, Brandon Barnes, and others make up a solid offensive roster.

Defensively, Houston has tons of weapons. Will Likely, Reggie Northrup, Donald Payne, Jamar Summers etc. – the Gamblers did an impressive job shutting down New Orleans’ offense time and time again. Unfortunately, their offense couldn’t hold up their side of the bargain, which resulted in another loss, as the defense was simply worn down during the final drive.

Moving forward, Kevin Sumlin has to find someone who can seal the deal offensively, otherwise it’s going to be a disappointing season.

Next Up: Pittsburgh. This is a game that Houston can dominate, as long as they play complete football. A lot will ride on whether or not Thorson looks the part. If he plays well, the Gamblers should come away victorious.

#6: Michigan Panthers (1-3)

Michigan has to be given some credit – they’ve been improving every week. Unfortunately, that hasn’t resulted in wins – but it absolutely should have against Philadelphia. Jeff Fisher has been underwhelming as a coach so far, and that was evident on Friday night.

Instead of running a couple more plays with arguably the USFL’s best running back in Reggie Corbin, Fisher let the time run down – sending out his struggling punter-turned-kicker. Despite it being a 21 yard field goal for the win, the attempt went off the upright, handing the Stars a late victory.

This is a tough one for Michigan to deal with, especially since they were right there to win it. After Shea Patterson’s horrendous performance, the game was still in reach, but ultimately slipped away. Defensively, Michigan showed a lot of heart, as they consistently have each and every week.

Michigan desperately needs a quarterback – and they may have found it in Josh Love, who the team picked up on waivers this week. We’ll see just how quickly Fisher plans on using him, if he decides to take out Patterson that is. The Panthers have the pieces they need to win – they simply need to put them together, and it starts with Fisher.

Next Up: Tampa Bay. It’s hard to predict how Michigan will perform, especially with the unknown QB situation. Hopefully, we’ll see a Panthers team that properly utilizes its talents – because if so, we will be treated to an entertaining affair.

#5: Tampa Bay Bandits (2-2)

Tampa Bay just can’t figure out who they are. One week, they will look elite, only to barely reach double digits the ensuing game. Jordan Ta’amu has played a role in this, only showing flashes of his XFL expertise in the USFL. For whatever reason, Ta’amu has not settled into his role in Tampa Bay, which is leaving Todd Haley’s group wanting more.

What doesn’t help, is the fact that Tampa lacks a consistent ground game. If you can’t run the ball, Ta’amu’s life will be much more difficult. As the season continues, Haley needs to key in on scheming ways to get Ta’amu out of the pocket, alongside the option to run the ball well.

Defensively, the Bandits have shown improvement compared to previous weeks. The squad held Birmingham to only 16 points, and gave their offense a chance to win the game multiple times. If they continue to gel on that side of the football, Tampa Bay will be in solid shape. Time is ticking, and the South is very competitive. Tampa needs to win, and they need to win now.

Next Up: Michigan. This is a game that the Bandits can win – but which version of Tampa will we see? Weeks one and three, or Weeks two and four? It all comes down to that factor. If Ta’amu gets going early, I like the Bandits’ odds in this one.

#4: Philadelphia Stars (2-2)

Philadelphia found a way to win, even though it was far from pretty. That being said, a win is a win – and the Stars are showing how resilient they are. Bryan Scott went down in week three, but Case Cookus has filled in impressively well. His presence in the pocket is a welcome addition to Bart Andrus’ offense, as Cookus looked solid during his starting debut.

The Stars’ defense has shown some weak points, struggling to stop the run. However, their secondary is one of the best in the league, as ballhawks such as Channing Stribling (4 INT’s, USFL leader) and Ahmad Dixon are making QB’s lives miserable.

Hopefully the team can regain Darnell Holland, who’s been out for a few weeks now with a hamstring injury. His return to the offense can certainly boost the run game, making Cookus’ life easier. As long as Philadelphia does enough to maintain their second seed, they can certainly do some damage once the playoffs arrive.

Next Up: Birmingham. This is a huge test for Philadelphia, going up against the league’s best team. How will Cookus respond to an elite Stallions’ defense? Can Philadelphia make Smith uncomfortable? A lot is on the line for the Stars heading into this one.

#3: New Jersey Generals (3-1)

New Jersey is just a hair away from being in the top two. The team continues to improve in multiple areas each week, winning three straight. DeAndre Johnson has been electrifying both on the ground and through the air, making strides forward as a passer. If Johnson can maintain this level of play, New Jersey has an excellent chance at a championship berth.

Between Darius Victor and Trey Williams, the Generals boast one of the league’s best ground attacks, alongside several dangerous receivers who are versatile. KaVonte Turpin, for example, has been a welcome addition to the lineup. His speed/style of play resembles athletes such as Tyreek Hill or Tavon Austin, being another explosive element next to Johnson and company.

Defensively, New Jersey has consistently gotten the job done since week two. Even with some missing pieces (i.e. Shalom Luani), the Generals have been stout on that side of the football. Now, as long as Riley continues to implement his two quarterback system the right way, New Jersey will continue to see success in 2022.

Next Up: New Orleans. Is NJ the real deal? We’ll find out on Saturday. This is probably their toughest game so far, now that the Breakers look like one of the USFL’s best teams. We’ll have to see if Riley’s squad is up to the task – can they prove they belong in the championship conversation?

#2: New Orleans Breakers (3-1)

New Orleans is solidifying themselves as an elite USFL team. Kyle Sloter has looked the part, being the first quarterback to reach 1,000 yards on the season. He threw for almost 400 yards on Sunday, leading the team down the field for the clutch game-winning touchdown over Houston. Now, turnovers have been an issue for Sloter – but once he cleans those up, the Breakers will be nearly unstoppable.

Signing Taylor Bertolet was an excellent move by Larry Fedora. After kicking woes through three weeks, Bertolet was sensational on Sunday. With his presence, New Orleans’ offense becomes even more lethal than it already was.

Defensively, the Breakers have been very consistent. They made Clayton Thorson’s life quite difficult this weekend, and shut Houston down during the final possessions. With playmakers like Vontae Diggs and Davin Bellamy showing out every week, the team is in great shape. Oh, and did I mention that they locked up Mark Thompson to only 10 yards on 14 carries? This squad is special.

Next Up: New Jersey. The Breakers will have their work cut out for themselves defensively, as New Jersey boasts an explosive ground game. However, if any defense can get the job done, it’s New Orleans. A key factor in this one: Can Kyle Sloter outperform both Johnson and Perez?

#1: Birmingham Stallions (4-0)

Still undefeated, and still at the top of our power rankings. The Birmingham Stallions. This team has been so much fun to watch week in and week out, even on nights where they struggle. With J’Mar Smith out this week, the team united behind Alex McGough, who led them to victory over a scrappy Tampa Bay team.

Birmingham’s identity revolves around their defense, one that has been exceptional the past few weeks. The Stallions have shut down their opponents consistently, creating havoc and chaos for opposing offenses on every single play. Scooby Wright III is a rock star – and combined with DeMarquis Gates, makes that linebacker core ridiculously unfair.

The team will benefit from getting J’Mar Smith back into the starting lineup, who gives the team a spark offensively. Not to mention – the Stallions just signed Bo Scarborough, the former Alabama standout back. As long as Skip Holtz’ group continues to play complete football like they have so far, Birmingham will be the team to beat in the USFL.

Next Up: Philadelphia. While Birmingham is the clear favorite, don’t sleep on Case Cookus and his Stars. Bart Andrus is quietly one of the USFL’s most genius coaches – if anyone can come up with a game plan to take out Birmingham, it’s going to be him. The Stallions will have to be at the top of their game to win this one.

Final Thoughts

Without a doubt, week five is going to bring the fans tons of exciting action. As we hit the halfway point in this ten week season, teams have a lot to play for. Obviously, organizations like Pittsburgh and Houston need to win immediately, otherwise their seasons will be over quickly.

We can’t wait to see what this upcoming weekend brings us in the USFL. Grab your popcorn, because it’s going to be a show!

What do you think of these power rankings? Are you satisfied with how your team has played through four weeks? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!

Fubo