Remembering the Mark Malone Trade

A few weeks ago, in the “what passes for news during the NFL lockout” category, Steel Curtain Rising noted the anniversary of the Todd Blackledge trade.

Today we connote the completion of the cycle.

23 years ago yesterday, the Steelers practiced a modicum of addition by subtraction when they dealt former starting and first round pick Mark Malone to the San Diego Chargers for an 8th round draft pick.

I remember the day well, as a friend called me to congratulate me on the trade.

Debate continues to this day as to how bad of a bust Mark Malone was as a first round pick. Coming out of Arizona State Mark Malone’s athletic prowse was beyond question.

As Ed Bouchette reported in his article announcing the Mark Malone trade, Steelers defensive coaches wanted to move him to safety instead of keeping him buried behind Terry Bradshaw and Cliff Stoudt.

Malone never did play safety, but he did play a little wide out, and still holds the record for the longest pass reception from scrimmage. But injuries took their toll, and although Malone showed some promise during his first two campaigns as starter, by 1987 his 46 passer rating put the writing on the wall.

Trade A Wash in Irony

San Diego predicted that Malone would be the comeback player of the year, deeming him a suitable replacement for Dan Fouts. To no one’s surpise east of the PA-Ohio border, Malone failed to deliver, going 2-6 as a starter.

But the Malone trade would reap its share of irony, as Malone led the Chargers to a 20-14 victory over the Steelers, preventing the woeful 1988 Steelers from running the table as they closed the final quarter of ’88 at 3-1.

A double irony was at work as this was Malone’s last victory as a starter and yes, Malone’s final victory as a Steelers starter had come at the expense of, yes, the Chargers.

Nor did the Steelers take much advantage of the extra 8th round pick, using it to select Mike Hinnant a tight end from Temple. Hinnant played two seasons for the Steelers, but only caught one ball for 23 years and returned a kick for 13, for those of you keeping score at home.

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