Nine times out of ten when you bring an undrafted free agent rookie into camp the expectation is that he’ll be just another body, but it’s that one time that a diamond in the rough can be found.
Perhaps Shakim Phillips is just such a jewel. Virtually unknown to most Steelers’ fans prior to Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game, Phillips burst onto the scene with two catches for 43 yards. One of those catches was far and away the Steelers’ highlight of the night.
Phillips extended for a Landry Jones’ throw and reeled it in with one hand as he went to the ground. Even in higher scoring and more exciting games this would have stood out but when the offense can only put up three points the play takes on added significance.
Prior to camp, the Steelers’ receiving corps looked to be pretty well solidified. Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant are the three constants while rookie Sammie Coates and special teams guru Darrius Heyward-Bey are thought to complete the five-man grouping.
With Dri Archer’s performance on Sunday, it’s likely he will be the third running back. He can also play wide receiver which means the team will likely go with five receivers. That’s where Phillips comes in…
The former UConn Huskie and Boston College Eagle can make it very tough for Head Coach Mike Tomlin to cut him if he has another good game on Friday night in Jacksonville. While it’s likely his number of plays will come down a bit with the veterans seeing a little more action, what he does with those plays he does have will be huge for his future.
If you couple his strong performance with the disappointing showing by C.J. Goodwin then Phillips suddenly has the opportunity to make it difficult on the Steelers’ staff.
Heck, if he can come up with some plays on special teams then maybe DHB is in trouble as well…