Rod Woodson Makes Ex-Steelers Standout a Top 5 Pick in XFL Draft

NFL Hall of Famer Rod Woodson

Getty Images Former Steelers CB/KR Rod Woodson during his Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony in 2009.

On Wednesday Nov. 16, 2022, the XFL held the skill position portion of its 2022 draft, and the Vegas Vipers — guided by head coach Rod Woodson — used two of their 11 skill position picks on wide receivers who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

First and foremost, the Vipers selected ex-Steelers WR Martavis Bryant No. 5 overall.

Martavis Bryant Last Played in the NFL in 2018

Bryant — who was a 4th-round pick of the Steelers in 2014 (Clemson) — has not played in the NFL since he was suspended indefinitely on December 14, 2018. Since that date, he has signed with several other professional football leagues.

In April 2021 he inked a deal with (and went on to play for) the Massachusetts Pirates of the Indoor Football League (IFL). That deal was completed mere months after he signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. Ultimately he was suspended by the Argonauts after he failed to show up at Toronto’s training camp.

Bryant, now 30 years old, played in a total of 36 games with the Steelers between 2014 and 2017. During those games he used his size (6-foot-4 and 210 pounds) and blazing speed (4.42 at the NFL Combine) to catch 126 passes for 1,917 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Then-Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert went on to trade Bryant to the Raiders on April 26, 2018, in exchange for a 3rd-round draft pick. Bryant struggled to make an impact for Jon Gruden’s Raiders. In eight games he caught just 19 passes for 266 yards with no touchdowns.

Now Bryant will be hauling in passes from Vipers quarterbacks Jalan McClendon (North Carolina State/Baylor) and Luis Perez (Southwestern/Texas A&M Commerce), both of whom were drafted by Vegas on Nov. 15.

McClendon spent time with both the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team before playing in the XFL in 2020.

Perez signed with the Los Angeles Rams as a rookie undrafted free agent in 2018. He has since been a part of the AAF (Birmingham Iron), XFL 2020 (Los Angeles Wildcat and New York Guardians) and USFL 2022 (New Jersey Generals).

Ex-Steelers WR/KR Mathew Sexton a Vipers 8th-Round Pick

McClendon and Perez will also have the opportunity to throw to former Steelers wide receiver/kick returner Mathew Sexton, who was added in the 8th round of the XFL draft (No. 60 overall).

Sexton — who played his college football at Eastern Michigan and earned the nickname ‘Cheddar Bob’ during his brief time in Pittsburgh — joined the Steelers in March 2021 after impressing at Michigan State’s Pro Day.

He was waived by the Steelers in late August 2021 after he muffed two punts in Pittsburgh’s fourth and final preseason game.

2 Ex-Steelers RBs Were Selected in the XFL Draft

Martavis Bryant and Mathew Sexton weren’t the only ex-Steelers to get selected in the skill position segment of the 2022 XFL draft. For one, the St. Louis Battlehawks added former Duke running back Mataeo Durant in the 4th-round (No. 131 overall).

In April 2022, the Steelers gave Durant the largest UDFA running back contract in franchise history, but he was outplayed by fellow undrafted free agent Jaylen Warren.

Meanwhile, the San Antonio Brahmas selected former Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage in the 6th round (No. 46 overall). Ballage was a 4th-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and played in the NFL for five years, spending his last season with the Steelers in 2021.

The XFL’s 2023 season is scheduled to begin in February. Rod Woodson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009 after a 17-year NFL career that began with the Steelers, who made him the No. 10 overall pick in the 1987 NFL Draft.

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