There’s a new kid on the block.

The American Indoor Football League has announced that Pittsburgh will be part of its expansion for next season.

The Pittsburgh RiverRats will join the Johnstown Riverhawks in the Northern Conference for the AIFL’s third year and will play their home games at the 2,900-seat Rostraver Ice Garden in Westmoreland County.

Shawn Liotta, a high school football coach at West Shamokin in the WPIAL, will lead the Steel City franchise.

That puts the RiverRats a step ahead of the Riverhawks, who have not announced a replacement for Brian Basile. Basile, the only coach in franchise history, stepped down a month ago.

Josh Lipkin, who was a 2004 Johnstown draft pick and worked as media relations director this past season, will be special teams coordinator and fullbacks/linebackers coach for the RiverRats.

“It’ll be nice to strap it up against Johnstown,” Lipkin said. “I’m happy for a fresh start.

“We’re in a lot bigger of a market but there’s a lot of potential for a nice rivalry. We’re going to compete for players. It’s going to be hot and heavy as far as recruiting. There’s some great players from the Pittsburgh metro area.”

But the negatives have outweighed the positives so far this offseason in the AIFL.

When league owners meet on Saturday and Sunday in Canton, Ohio, they’re going to have to get acquainted with each other. The former 16-league team, bent on expansion the past two years, got a taste of its own medicine when seven franchises sought greener pastures just weeks after the season’s final snap.

Augusta (Ga.), Daytona Beach (Fla.), Huntington (W.Va.), Raleigh (N.C.) and runner-up Rome (Ga.) broke away from the AIFL to form the bulk of the World Indoor Football League. Rome lost at home, 61-40, to Canton in the American Bowl on July 3.

Meanwhile, Steubenville and Miami Valley – two franchises located in Ohio – fled to the National Indoor Football League, a bitter rival of the AIFL.

Huntington, Steubenville and Miami Valley were in the Northern Conference with the Riverhawks.

“We’ll look to fill the Steubenville niche,” Lipkin said. “With three original teams still around – Erie, Johnstown and Canton – that adds stability to the Northern Conference.”

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