LATROBE, Pa. — In many ways, the Steelers’ training camp practice was a metaphor for Hakeem Butler’s pro football career. Amid a torrential downpour, the former XFL star weathered the storm and made the day’s biggest play while showing why the Steelers picked him up this past spring.
Late in practice, Butler screamed down the near sideline while catching the attention of Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky decided to give Butler a chance, and he rewarded his quarterback by catching Trubisky’s deep ball after wresting it away from the defender. While it was one of several impressive plays made on the day by Butler, he’s keeping it all in perspective.
“It’s only Day 3,” Butler told reporters after practice. “Just trying to show I know the offense and can make plays.”
Just two days earlier, Butler had struggled to hang on to several catchable passes. But facing and responding to adversity is nothing new for him.
A former Cardinals fourth-round pick, the 6-foot-5, 227-pound Butler’s NFL career was initially derailed by an injury that was sustained during his rookie camp. After short stints in Carolina and Philadelphia, Butler failed to get onto the field with both of his Canadian Football League teams.
Butler’s luck finally began to change this past spring. As a member of the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks, Butler caught 51 passes for 599 yards and eight touchdowns. His success in the XFL led to him signing with the Steelers on May 16.
“Just proving to myself that I can still do it,” Butler said of his XFL experience. “A lot of people gave up on me. Almost gave up on myself truthfully, almost gave up on the game. But kept fighting, kept my head up. This is just another chance to prove that I’m still that guy, can be that guy. I feel that in myself.”
Butler’s breakout season in college took place in 2018, his final season at Iowa State. His quarterback that season was Brock…