Steelers Release LB to Make Room for Free Agent WR


Tom Pennington/Getty Images Sewo Olonilua of the TCU Horned Frogs carries the ball against James Lockhart of the Baylor Bears during a 2019 game.

Today the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they have released outside linebacker James Lockhart to make room for free agent wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, who himself was cut by the Steelers a week ago to create space on the roster for wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud. Lockhart, 6-foot-2 and 263 pounds, went to Texas A&M before transferring to Baylor, where he started as a fifth-year senior and finished with six sacks.

Blacknall comes (back) to the Steelers by way of the XFL and Penn State University. He originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2018, signing with Raiders and spending his rookie season on their practice squad. He was subsequently signed by the Miami Dolphins during the 2019 preseason but waived before the regular season got underway. Blacknall has also spent time on the Arizona Cardinals practice squad.

Blacknall played for the Los Angeles Wildcats of the XFL this spring and was picked up by the Steelers after the XFL season came to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At Penn State, Blacknall had 50 receptions for 979 yards and seven touchdowns in 34 games.

Free Agent Success Stories

The Steelers have been having success with many of their recent veteran free agent signings, thanks in part to a rules change that has encouraged the organization to pursue young veteran free agents who have achieved success with other NFL teams.

Case in point is safety Curtis Riley, who started 16 games at free safety for the New York Giants in 2018 and seems to have locked down a spot on the 53-man roster as a backup.

Another promising acquisition is the aforementioned Ray-Ray McCloud, who was signed by the Steelers a week ago, but already looks to be a dramatic upgrade over the other No. 6 wide receiver candidates and will be part of the practice squad if he doesn’t make the opening day roster.

Rookie Free Agent Success Stories?

On the other hand, the Steelers haven’t had as much success with the rookie undrafted free agents they signed in the spring, as just four of the ten are still on the roster, including punter Corliss Waitman, defensive end Calvin Taylor and cornerback Trajan Brandy.

However, at least one of the ten appears to have a future with the team, that being 6-foot-2 cornerback James Pierre out of Florida Atlantic University, who has reportedly been getting a long look from the coaches. During his last season in college Pierre played in 13 games and made 43 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. He also recorded three interceptions and four passes defensed.

The Steelers are already loaded at the cornerback position. Joe Haden and Steven Nelson are the starters, with Mike Hilton as the slot corner and Cameron Sutton & Justin Layne providing quality depth. But at the very least there’s room for Pierre on the practice squad if he proves he’s the best option as No. 6 cornerback.

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