There are not a lot of meaningful conclusions that you can reach about a player after the end of his first season, but that certainly doesn’t stop people from talking about it. You can find just about any variety of analysis that you would care to read if you just look for it, complete with bold letter grades.
I’m not going to do that. But I am going to talk about the Pittsburgh Steelers’s 2015 NFL Draft class, both collectively, in this article, as was as individually, in succeeding articles.
While the tides have slowly turned in Pittsburgh regarding rookie players being held back in terms of playing time in recent years, the 2015 class outside of their first-round pick did not get a lot of burn during the year, but that shouldn’t be terribly surprising in hindsight.
The Steelers entered the draft process this year with eight draft picks, including the seven natural draft picks in each round, in addition to a compensatory draft pick in the sixth round, in addition to some notable undrafted free agent acquisitions.
Player: Shakim Phillips
Draft Status: Undrafted
The draft is important. As Steelers fans, we’re all more than aware of that. But the undrafted free agent process that follows the draft is also important, and Steelers fans should be well aware of that as well. After all, they had more than a dozen such players on their 53-man roster, including a few in the starting lineup on either side of the ball.
So when it comes to talking about draft classes, it’s beneficial to also talk about the undrafted free agent class that they also brought in, or at least the most notable ones. Among the most notable last season was wide receiver Shakim Phillips, who spent the entire season on the practice squad.
As a transfer player, Phillips’ playing experience in college was a bit muddy, opting to transfer his senior season in a move that proved to be questionable after things didn’t go as planned in Boston College, though he did become a big-play threat, averaging 21.7 yards on 13 receptions with four touchdowns.
Phillips came into Pittsburgh and showed off some of that big-play potential by making a couple of attention-grabbing plays in training camp, and then in the preseason. With decent size and speed, he had the potential to be molded.
Considering he was playing with a quarterback whom the Steelers later signed as a wide receiver, it might not be surprising if his college statistics were not overly glamourous. Still, he also showed during the preseason that he has much room for improvement in his game, which included a drop or two and some double-clutching.
Pittsburgh did keep him on the practice squad all year, as mentioned, even if it was the aforementioned former teammate who spent brief time on the 53-man roster. But the team retained Phillips as a Reserve/Future player. With that said, it will be hard to imagine he will be able to crack the 53-man roster given the depth already there.