With a look to the offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers are in the process of shaping their summer roster. They re-signed nearly everyone on their practice squad, sans Tyler Murphy, to future deals that can keep this players through camp. They also added several players from outside the organization, as is the norm, to futures deal. We’ll take you through each one and give you the skinny on each player. Nothing incredibly in-depth but enough background on each to get your familiar with who these people are.
Al-Hajj Shabazz/CB West Chester: 6’0/7 200
Definitely a candidate for the All-Name team, there is a lot more to him than that. Born in Philadelphia, he decided to stay local and attend Division II West Chester, a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, PSAC, one of the top divisions in D-II. I know that because my school, Clarion, is a member of the conference and during my four years, thoroughly got their butt kicked by teams like West Chester.
After redshirting in 2010, Shabazz, made three starts in 2011 and seven in 2012. He became the full-time starter in 2013, picking off four passes, and helped lead his Rams into the playoffs, before falling to Lenoir-Rhyne in the semifinals. He followed that up with a strong senior season with another four interceptions, and his second career pick six.
An invitation to the NFLPA Bowl game gave him exposure, and according to this Daily Local feature, he quickly made a connection with Andre Reed, a coach and PSAC product himself. Still, being at such a small school, he traveled up the road to Villanova for his Pro Day. Shabazz had the option to train out of state but he decided against it so he could continue to work towards getting his degree.
He ran a 4.63 there and jumped 35 inches in the vertical, respectable numbers. I happened to be there to watch another player and had this to write about him.
“I didn’t watch much of him but was initially impressed by West Chester cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz. Getting some buzz in media circles. Extremely explosive out of his pedal and looks the part. Came in at 6’1 and an even 200 pounds, according to his agent. Did have two drops but it’s a minor quibble.”
He was one of many players at that Pro Day to get a shot into the NFL, several who are still with teams and earned futures’ contracts: Clarion’s Julian Howsare (Jets), Delaware Valley’s Rasheed Bailey (Eagles), and now Shabazz, who signed with the Indianapolis Colts after the draft but was cut a month into his NFL journey. He was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the eve of training camp and carried through the preseason before, like so many in this series, cut as the team trimmed down to 53. He was not signed to the practice squad and out of football until the Steelers signed him.
The fact he’s cleared the six-foot, 200 pound mark, will get a lot of fans excited, the mystical line to be worthy of being a “big corner.” The Steelers’ corner cupboard is pretty full, assuming William Gay and Antwon Blake come back, coupled with Senquez Golson, Doran Grant, and at least the one additional corner the team will add. That makes the 53 man roster a longshot but he’ll be shooting for a practice squad spot. And with the amount of corners each team carries, he’ll be granted that opportunity.