WR Hakeem Butler’s XFL OC Believes He Can Make Steelers ‘If He’s Used The Right Way’

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed former Arizona Cardinals WR Hakeem Butler to a one-year contract yesterday, with the 27-year-old coming off an impressive season in the XFL. Butler, who played for the St. Louis Battlehawks, hauled in 51 balls for 599 yards and eight touchdowns and made the All-XFL team. He had a connection to the Steelers through St. Louis, as his offensive coordinator, Bruce Gradkowski, was a quarterback in Pittsburgh from 2013-2016. Gradkowski, a guest on the PM Show with Chris Mueller and Andrew Filliponi on 93.7 The Fan Wednesday, he said he believes Butler could make the Steelers’ 53-man roster.

“I think if he’s used the right way, he can,” Gradkowski said. “But there are a lot of other factors too that go into that. You gotta stay healthy, you gotta know what to do, and you gotta make plays when your opportunities present themselves.”

Gradkowski went on to say that Butler had a few “unfortunate drops” for the Battlehawks, but his mental toughness allowed him to bounce back and make big plays.

“He’s a guy every day of the week I want on my team,” Gradkowski said.

It’s going to be an uphill battle for Butler to make the Steelers roster given how crowded the receiver room is. You have five guys who are pretty much assured to make the roster in Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Allen Robinson II, Calvin Austin III and Miles Boykin, albeit in more of a special teams role for Boykin. That leaves Butler competing with the likes of Dez Fitzpatrick, Gunner Olszewski, Anthony Miller and Dan Chisena for a spot on the roster. The team also has hybrid RB/WR Jordan Byrd, Cody White and Ja’Marcus Bradley in the wide receiver room as well, so there’s no shortage of competition for Butler.

Where Butler has a leg up is that he’s going to be coming into training camp pretty soon off a season, meaning he might be more game ready and less prone to mistakes. Then again, if he struggles with drops, he might not have the opportunity in the small sample size of training camp and preseason to bounce back the way he might’ve as a featured receiver on an XFL team. He’s intriguing given his versatility to play inside as a big slot, the role at which Pittsburgh is going to play Robinson, or outside. I do like the move of bringing Butler in to compete to potentially backup that role.

The question is just going to become how many receivers the Steelers keep on their roster. Chisena and Boykin are both capable on special teams, while Austin, Byrd and Olszewski are likely going to compete for a special teams role as well, and Austin is likely in no danger of being cut. Miller was having a great camp last season before going down with a season-ending injury. If he performs well he could be in line for a roster spot ahead of Butler, as well.

Butler’s a low-risk, high-reward signing. If he doesn’t make the roster due to the numbers game, then he could provide upside as an experienced player on the practice squad. And if he does perform well enough to make the 53-man, then he’s a good option to get reps as a big slot behind Robinson. The wide receiver battle is definitely going to be a fun one to watch in training camp.

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