The Steelers landing Hakeem Butler gave the team some interesting depth in a wide receiver that already has plenty of bodies that will compete for an opportunity to make the 53-man roster when it comes to training camp, however, Butler might just have some unique traits that could give him an edge.
Pittsburgh has made this an offseason of the unique. By that, I mean it feels like many players they have acquired, especially through the draft, have some unique trait that makes them stand out. Darnell Washington is 6-foot-7 as a tight end. Joey Porter Jr. has elite length. The word unique can scare a lot of teams away because they simply do not know how to utilize those players or what they do. However, Mike Tomlin has never run away from that idea.
Butler is just a unique player for the wide receiver position. He is a 6-foot-5, 230-pound wide receiver. How many of those guys are actually out there? His size gives him a few advantages. For one, he is just a mismatch in certain areas of the field, such as the middle of the field. Second, he has a massive catch radius.
Pittsburgh has shown their love of having big slot receivers in recent years. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Pat Freiermuth, and now Allen Robinson II all fit into this mold of a big, physical slot receiver. Hakeem Butler has the potential to be just that as well. In the XFL and at Iowa State, Butler played a lot of snaps in the slot, and will be thrust into the big slot competition immediately that is developing.
Hakeem Butler’s catch radius is insane. Catches like this are all over his tape. pic.twitter.com/cl4z8jeTm7
— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) February 28, 2019
Here is one such example of an absurd play that Butler makes from the slot. This is a catch-radius play. Is it a flashy highlight-reel play? Yes, but the focus is on the fact that he simply goes up and snares this out of the sky like it is nothing. Butler has a unique trait to make him quarterback friendly in the best way. It is similar to how George Pickens makes himself quarterback friendly just by being a massive target with elite hands.
He’s not a perfect player and was not that coming out of Iowa State. After all, if he was this polished product, he would not have gone to the XFL anyways. However, the XFL tape is exciting with some really good catch technique consistency. I had that as one of his biggest issues coming out of Iowa State, but if that is now fixed up, I think Butler could have a sneaky path to the roster here in Pittsburgh.
We’ll see what occurs. However, when you are betting for lower-end roster spots, the guys that make it the most have unique qualities. That could be their special teams’ ability. Conversely, it could be the physical traits that pop out, like it does here with Butler. There is a reason that Butler just skipped the rookie tryout and was signed right away. I won’t say right now he will make the 53-man roster, but just don’t be surprised if Butler stands out throughout the process and slinkies his way onto the final group. The talent is all there.