Steelers Sign Former Falcons Wide Receiver; Ex-Notre Dame WR Waived

Christian Blake

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Christian Blake of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after a reception against the Denver Broncos at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 8, 2020.

On the afternoon of August 11 the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the signing of former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Christian Blake. To make room for Blake on the roster, the team released wideout Javon McKinley, who was waived injured.

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Christian Blake is a 5th-Year Veteran

Blake — 6-foot-1 and 181 pounds — originally joined the Falcons in 2018, having been signed as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois. He spent much of his rookie year on the team’s practice squad, but ultimately ascended to become an every-game player over the course of several years.

Between 2019-21, the 26-year-old appeared in a total of 41 games, including three starts. During that time, he had 28 receptions for 257 yards, an average of 9.2 yards per reception. He also has considerable experience on special teams, playing at least 30% of his team’s ST snaps in each of the past three seasons, as per Pro Football Reference.

Over the course of his career with the Northern Illinois Huskies, he caught 83 passes for 972 yards and six touchdowns. He also contributed as a kickoff returner and threw five passes, completing three for 32 yards.

He was signed by Arizona in mid-May, but was waived by the Cardinals early this month, making him available to the Steelers as a free agent. According to the team’s roster at, Blake will wear No. 39, which could be an error, as that’s the jersey number worn by All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

As for McKinley, he was signed by the Steelers on August 1. He did not finish practice on August 10, and was seen with a wrap on his right shoulder.

The Notre Dame product will revert to the team’s Reserve/Injured list if he goes unclaimed on waivers.

Meanwhile, the Steelers still have a total of 12 wide receivers on their 90-man roster, led by No. 1 wideout Diontae Johnson, who signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. The other receivers are: former second-round pick Chase Claypool, rookie draft picks George Pickens and Calvin Austin III, plus Miles Boykin, Anthony Miller, Steven Sims, Tyler Snead, Tyler Vaughns, Cody White and All-Pro kick returner Gunner Olszewski, the latter of whom was signed in March to replace former kick return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud.

The team turned to Olszewski after McCloud signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency.

Artie Burns Returns to Pittsburgh

On Saturday, the Steelers will renew acquaintances with former first-round pick Artie Burns when the Seattle Seahawks visit Acrisure Stadium in the preseason opener for both teams. Burns signed a one-year contract with Seattle in March and is on course to being named a starting cornerback for the Seahawks.

Prior to joining Seattle, Burns spent two years in Chicago with the Bears, one of which was washed out by a torn ACL, which he suffered in August 2020.

Famously, Burns abandoned his $90,000 Cadillac Escalade ESV at Pittsburgh International Airport when he abruptly left town for Chicago. The vehicle was subsequently made available for purchase at online auction.

Burns has been called the Steelers’ “biggest mistake” since 2016.

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