The Pittsburgh Steelers have officially signed XFL star WR and former 4th-round NFL draft pick Hakeem Butler to their offseason roster. The news was announced by the XFL moments ago.
Today is Butler’s 27th birthday, so it’s a very nice gift for him. Butler was reportedly going to take part in rookie minicamp as a tryout player but did not appear on the team’s roster. Reasons why Butler did not participate are unclear. Perhaps with Butler and the team knowing he was going to be signed, Butler’s camp did not want to risk an injury that would cost him his contract. Last week, GM Omar Khan mentioned Butler by name when discussing the wide receiver group, indicating he was still in the team’s plans.
A Steelers connection may have played a part in Butler signing with Pittsburgh. He played for the St. Louis Battlehawks this season and their offensive coordinator is former Steelers QB Bruce Gradkowski.
A height/weight/speed prospect who became a favorite of many NFL draftniks, Butler was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft by the Arizona Cardinals. In college, he excelled and averaged 22 yards per reception his final year at Iowa State, a 1,300-yard season with nine touchdowns. Coming out of school, he weighed in at 6055, 220 pounds with a 4.48 40.
But his Iowa State success didn’t carry over to the NFL. He quickly flamed out in Arizona and caught on with Philadelphia, appearing in two games in 2020. He didn’t catch a pass and was targeted just once, meaning his next NFL reception will be his first. Instead, Butler was drafted into the XFL and starred before the league wrapped up, catching 51 passes for 599 yards and eight touchdowns for the Battlehawks. His receptions and yards ranked second in the league while his touchdowns were easily the most of anyone. Here’s one such score, his longest of the year.
Butler will now join a Steelers receiver room that’s likely to carry six on the 53-man roster. The top names currently include Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Allen Robinson II, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin, and Anthony Miller. Other names like Gunner Olszewski and now Butler are in the mix.
Butler will have to carry over his XFL play to Steelers’ camp this summer while possibly creating some sort of value on special teams. He still has an uphill battle but he’s back in the NFL, a second chance to make his first catch.