Training camp is already in gear for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of the league, and a lot has changed for them over the course of the past several months. They have lost a number of players in free agency, through releases, and retirements. But they have also brought in a number of new faces to replace them.
We all know that roster turnover is an ever-present reality for today’s rosters, and it seems that over the course of the past half-decade or so even the Steelers have proven to be as susceptible to the annual shakeup as anybody. With that in mind, we should take the time to get to know some of the new faces with training camp already underway.
There are a couple of new faces left that bear talking about, because they could very well feature on the 53-man roster by the time all is said and done. We’ve focused a lot on the offensive side of the ball when it comes to the new faces who have broken in as players who either were in training camp last year or signed as Reserve players earlier this year, but with the opening at cornerback, it is obvious that we should wrap things up focusing on some of those players.
Most interesting to me is first-year player Al-Hajj Shabazz. A 6’2”, 200-pound cornerback who played for West Chester in Pennsylvania, and a native of Philadelphia, the 24-year-old originally went undrafted and signed with the Colts last year, but did not stay there long. He was signed by the Buccaneers and spent training camp with them, but did not make the roster.
He was out of football until February, when the Steelers signed him to a Reserve/Future contract, along with a couple of other cornerbacks as the same time, likely knowing full well that they would be bracing with some free agency departures and potential releases at the position.
The injury to Senquez Golson virtually assures that the Steelers will have to pick and choose from at least one of these Reserve/Future players to make the 53-man roster as a fifth cornerback—or sixth, counting Sean Davis—and Shabazz’s size only makes him an interesting contender.
Shabazz wasn’t always a big player, a late bloomer, a fact that helped relegate him to a Division II school, but he was impressive enough at that level to be invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, and managed to draw some attention from there as well.
The Steelers were interested in bringing him to training camp last year, but were able to do so this year, and he may have an even better opportunity to make the roster this year around than he would have been able to last year.
While he has not had a spectacular camp so far, he has certainly not had a poor one, and I will be interested to watch him, and monitor his playing time, once we finally get into the preseason games.