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Rod Woodson, Vegas Vipers Get Spotlight in XFL Opener

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Steelers XFL Rod Woodson
Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback, football Rod Woodson stands on the field before an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Former Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson will make his head coaching debut on the first game of the new XFL season next month.

Woodson is coaching the Vegas Vipers in the third iteration of the spring football league, which is returning after a two-year hiatus. The XFL’s 2020 season was interrupted by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league had one other season played in 2001.

The newest version of the XFL features eight teams in a 10-week schedule that will start in mid-February and lead to a title game on May 13.

Woodson served as a coaching intern and a cornerbacks and defensive backs coach from 2010-17, but said in 2020 that Hall of Fame-caliber players are passed over for assistant coaching jobs, because head coach are intimidated by them. 

“There’s only one Hall of Famer coaching (as of 2020),” Woodson said. “Having that gold jacket and having that respect walking in the room, sometimes, other people don’t want that. They want one alpha in the room.”

Now, he’s getting his chance to prove what he can do as the head coach of the Vipers, and he’ll get the league’s biggest stage for his debut. 

The Vipers will be playing in the season opener on the road against the Arlington Renegades on Saturday, Feb. 18 — six days after the Super Bowl and the end of the 2022 NFL Season. The game will be broadcast on ABC nation-wide, providing a large platform for Woodson and his Vipers to show what they can do.

He won’t be the only former Steelers players looking to shine in that spotlight. Former Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant is suiting up for Vegas in an effort to return from the substance abuse issues that ended his NFL career. Bryant was Woodson’s first pick in the XFL Draft.

Former Steelers coaches Ray Sherman and Darren Perry and training camp wide receivers Saeed Blacknall and Mathew Sexton are also on the Vipers.

Arlington has a host of Steelers connections, as well. Former Steelers tight end Jonathan Hayes is co-offensive coordinator. The co-defensive coordinators are Hayes’ brother and former Steelers special teams coach Jay Hayes and former Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis.

Suiting up for the Renegades will be former Steelers practice squad wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, training camp cornerback Shakur Brown and defensive lineman Doug Costin. Allderdice and West Virginia alum Will Clarke is also on the Arlington front four.

The opening game will be played at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the former home of the Houston Astros that has been converted into a football stadium.

While the 2023 XFL schedule will run from February to May, the USFL — and the Pittsburgh Maulers — won’t get started until April. That league will finish up in July. The Maulers are once again not expected to play any games in Pittsburgh in 2023.

Here’s a full list of the Pittsburgh connection on the current XFL 70-man rosters (teams must cut to 50 by the start of the season), along with the full schedule for the 2023 season:

Arlington Renegades
OC Jonathan Hayes (Steelers, S. Fayette)
DC Jay Hayes (Steelers, S. Fayette)
Co-DC Tim Lewis (Steelers, Pitt)
WR Tyler Vaughns (Steelers)
DL Will Clarke (WVU, Allderdice)
DL Doug Costin (Steelers)
CB Shakur Brown (Steelers)

D.C. Defenders
K Matthew McCrane (Steelers)

Houston Roughnecks
RB Max Borghi (Steelers)
DB Sean Davis (Steelers)
CB Alexander Myres (Steelers)
LS Brian Khoury (CMU)

Orlando Guardians
WR Eli Rogers (Steelers)
ILB Tegray Scales (Steelers)

San Antonio Brahmas
HC Hines Ward (Steelers)
LBC Joey Porter (Steelers)
RB Kalen Ballage (Steelers)
TE Alize Mack (Steelers)
OLB Delontae Scott (Steelers)
OLB Chase Pine (Pitt)
CB Ryan Lewis (Pitt)
CB Stephen Denmark (Steelers)
LS Rex Sunahara (WVU, Steelers)
P Brad Wing (Steelers)

Seattle Sea Dragons
HC Jim Haslett (Avalon, IUP, Steelers)
DC Ron Zook (Steelers)
QB Ben DiNucci (P-R, Pitt)
OL Michael Menet (PSU)
DL Treyvon Hester (Penn Hills)
OLB Shareef Miller (PSU)
OLB Tuzar Skipper (Steelers)
DB Antoine Brooks (Steelers)
CB Linden Stephens (Steelers)
P Cameron Nizialek (Steelers)

St. Louis Battlehawks
HC Anthony Becht (WVU)
OC Bruce Gradkowski (Seton-La Salle, Steelers)
RB Leddie Brown (WVU)
RB Mataeo Durant (Steelers)
WR George Campbell (WVU)
WR Gary Jennings, Jr. (WVU)
OT Jaryd Jones-Smith (Pitt)
OL Steven Gonzalez (PSU)
DT Shakir Soto (Pitt)

Vegas Vipers
HC Rod Woodson (Steelers)
WRC Ray Sherman (Steelers)
DBC Darren Perry (PSU, Steelers)
RB John Lovett (PSU)
WR Saeed Blacknall (PSU, Steelers)
WR Martavis Bryant (Steelers)
WR Mathew Sexton (Steelers)
DL Robert Windsor (PSU)
OLB James Folston (Pitt)

2023 XFL SCHEDULE

Saturday, Feb. 18
Vegas at Arlington, 3 p.m., ABC
Orlando at Houston, 8:30 p.m., ESPN/FX
Sunday, Feb. 19
St. Louis at San Antonio, 3 p.m., ABC
Seattle at D.C., 8 p.m., ESPN

Thursday, Feb. 23
St. Louis at Seattle, 9 p.m., FX

Saturday, Feb. 25
D.C. at Vegas, 7 p.m., FX
Sunday, Feb. 26
San Antonio at Orlando, 4 p.m., ESPN
Arlington at Houston, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday, March 4
Seattle at Vegas, 7 p.m., FX
Sunday, March 5
St. Louis at D.C., 1 p.m., FX
Orlando at Arlington, 4 p.m., FX
San Antonio at Houston, 8 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday, March 11
Houston at Orlando, 7 p.m., FX
San Antonio at Seattle, 10 p.m., FX
Sunday, March 12
Arlington at St. Louis, 4 p.m., ESPN2
Vegas at D.C., 7 p.m., ESPN2

Thursday, March 16
Houston at Seattle, 9 p.m., FX
Saturday, March 18
D.C. at St. Louis, 7 p.m., FX
Orlando at Vegas, 10 p.m., FX
Sunday, March 19
Arlington at San Antonio, 10 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday, March 25
Seattle at Orlando, 1:30 p.m., ESPN
St. Louis at Vegas, 7 p.m., FX
Sunday, March 26
San Antonio at Arlington, 3 p.m., ABC
Houston at D.C., 7 p.m., FX

Friday, March 31
Seattle at Arlington, 7 p.m., FX
Saturday, April 1
St. Louis at Houston, 3 p.m., ESPN2
San Antonio at Vegas, 6 p.m., ESPN
Sunday, April 2
D.C. at Orlando, 7 p.m., FX

Saturday, April 8
Vegas at St. Louis, 1 p.m., ESPN
Arlington at Orlando, 4 p.m., ESPN
Sunday, April 9
Houston at San Antonio, 3 p.m., ABC
D.C. at Seattle, 7 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday, April 15
Vegas at Houston, 12;30 p.m., ABC
Orlando at San Antonio, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Sunday, April 16
Arlington at D.C., noon, ESPN
Seattle at St. Louis, 3 p.m., ESPN

Saturday, April 22
Orlando at St. Louis, noon, ESPN
D.C. at San Antonio, 3 p.m., ABC
Sunday, April 23
Houston at Arlington, 3 p.m., ESPN
Vegas at Seattle, 9 p.m., ESPN2

Saturday, April 29
Semifinal, TBD, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Sunday, April 30
Semifinal, TBD, 3 p.m., ESPN

Saturday, May 13
XFL Final, TBD, 3 p.m., ABC

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Edward Carmichael
Edward Carmichael
January 25, 2023 11:06 am

as a true Steelers fan, I hope both the X.F.L. league and the U.S,F.L. league lase a very long time because it will the players a chance to hone their skills because the N.F.L. has a too short preseason and you don’t get to see every single player

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