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Dan Marino Talks about Almost Signing with Steelers in 2000

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Dan Marino

Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino nearly signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers for his final season of football after 17 years with the Miami Dolphins, but decided to walk away from the game instead. He talked about the decision on the Sports Seriously podcast this week.

Marino had the option of his contract declined by the Dolphins in the 2000 offseason, and the team, under new head coach Dave Wannstedt, was looking for a younger player as a starting quarterback, eventually settling on Jay Fiedler.

That left Marino free to talk with other teams, and he did, fielding offers from the Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ultimately, he decided to retire and step away from the game.

“I definitely thought about it,” Marino said. “To be honest with you, I played 17 years with the Dolphins. They were kind of going in a new direction, had a new coach. I had offers to go play other places and really thought about it. Maybe would’ve had a chance to win a championship like Matthew (Stafford) has done and other guys are trying to do in other places. After I thought about it for a long time, it just didn’t feel right. So I just decided I’ll just be a Dolphin for life. It worked out great, but I will tell you that I did think about that, yes.”

Marino said that the two main teams were the Vikings and Steelers. Minnesota had a strong team, going 10-6 in 1999 with Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. They needed someone to bridge the gap until they felt 1999 first-round pick Duante Culpepper was ready.

The Steelers were looking to move away from Kordell Stewart after a disastrous 6-10 1999 season. The team was also still run by the same Rooney family that passed on Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft and certainly would have loved to correct that error.

“Minnesota was interested in me for what would have been my 18th season,” Marino said. “The Pittsburgh Steelers talked to me. Those two were the main teams. Maybe go home and play for the Steelers for a couple of years. But it was one of those things where I’d already put my heart and soul into Miami. So I just figured it was time.”

Things ended up working out OK for the Vikings, as the team turned immediately to Culpepper and he led them to an 11-5 season and an NFC Championship Game appearance.

The Steelers didn’t get as lucky. They felt like they couldn’t wait for Marino to make a decision and instead signed free agent Kent Graham. Graham lost all three games he started and Kordell Stewart ended up as the starter again as Pittsburgh finished outside the playoffs at 9-7. Stewart led the team back to the AFC Championship game in 2001, but was replaced by Tommy Maddox midseason in 2002.

The Steelers finally got their quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, and he led the team to a pair of Super Bowl titles in his 18 season. When the Steelers set out to replace Roethlisberger in 2022, they made it a point not to pass on the first-round quarterback out of Pitt this time around, drafting Kenny Pickett with the 20th selection.

“It’s something for me to be able to say that we drafted somebody who broke all of Dan Marino’s records in college,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said after drafting Pickett. “It’s pretty special.”

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