There isn’t much else to do while we sit here and wait for news about whether or not there will even be training camp, so it seems as good a time as any to bring back this series, in which we look to introduce some of the new players that the Pittsburgh Steelers have added to the mix since the end of the 2019 season.
The team added some notable pieces in free agency, which was important, because they didn’t have much to work with in terms of draft capital due to previous trades. They also made liberal use of the XFL’s closure, signing about as many players from there as the rest of the league combined. Even while claiming that they didn’t have a lot of roster room, they still signed a good number of rookie college free agents as well, enough that they had to release three players just to make room for them.
One of the Steelers’ deepest spots on the roster heading into the start of the 2020 new league year was wide receiver, but that didn’t stop them from taking a peak at what the XFL had to offer at the position when they were forced to close their doors in the middle of March, just five games into a proposed 10-game inaugural season.
What they came away with was a contract with Saeed Blacknail, a New Jersey native and alumnus of Penn State, who while there earned the nickname of Megatron Jr., in reference to the great Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
During his four seasons with the Nittany Lions, Blacknail only played sparingly. He had just 50 receptions for his career, but he turned them into 979 yards, averaging a robust 19.7 yards per receptions over the course of his career, with seven total touchdowns.
His best season was his junior year in 2016. While he only caught 15 passes, he gained 347 yards, averaging 23.1 yards per reception. That season also featured his career-high three touchdowns.
At 6’3” and 210 pounds, Blacknail is a physically formidable player who also posted a sub-4.4 40-yard dash time. He has the metrics of an explosive deep threat, but even the Oakland Raiders didn’t use a draft pick on him coming out in 2018.
Though he did sign with them as a college free agent. And he lasted the year with the team, spending it on the practice squad. He was promoted for one game due to injury, logging 16 snaps, but did not face a target.
He was waived in the weeks leading to training camp last year, with the Miami Dolphins claiming him off waivers, but he was waived again, this time with an injury designation, a month later on August 20. He was placed on injured reserve and then shortly after released with an injury settlement.
After a mid-September workout with the Packers, Blacknail eventually signed with the Cardinals’ practice squad in December, where he remained for the rest of the year, but they did not offer him a futures contract.
By then, he had already been ‘drafted’ by the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL, while he was unemployed, and signed with the team the day his 2019 contract with the Cardinals expired. While there, he caught four passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. He was inactive for two of the five games, I believe due to injury.