It’s funny how perceptions can change rather quickly. For some, they would have been fine if the Pittsburgh Steelers had selected cornerback Doran Grant in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft rather than Senquez Golson. Some may have begun to tear out their hair when his name was not called in round three. Finally, they breathed a sigh of relief and high-fives abounded for the great value of landing him all the way in the fourth round.
Then he made a play or two in the preseason. Then he missed a play or two. Then he made the initial 53-man roster as one of six cornerbacks. Then the next day, he was released, infuriating many and signaling to them that the front office has clearly not idea what it is doing.
But then a funny thing happened; nobody around the rest of the league was interested, it seemed. Nobody bothered to claim him off waivers. The Steelers, after all, released him only after claiming a player off waivers themselves.
So he was easily and safely re-signed to the practice squad, and there he remained for two months, until he was called up from the practice squad in early November, spending the final nine weeks of the season, including the bye, on the 53-man roster, though he was only active for three games. He saw very brief and select work on special teams, and one snap on defense.
From bargain draft pick to shocking release, then to surprising lack of interest, including the ability to stay half the season on the practice squad with nobody signing him away, the perception of who Grant is or can be as a player has been a bit of a rollercoaster in less than a year, one headed mostly downward.
But his story figures to line up as potentially an interesting one to follow, because he, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake, and head coach Mike Tomlin have all talked at various times about his potential ability to play safety, with Grant noting during his post-draft press conference that he had played safety in practice at Ohio State before and understood the position.
His potential to demonstrate position flexibility—or at least the potential ability to move from one failed position to one that may prove successful—adds both intrigue and value to the story of a player who has had little of either thus far in his professional career.
The 5’10”, 200-pound defensive back has a very important offseason ahead of him, as is the case with all second-year players, with this time period being regarded as the one in which coaches expect a player to exhibit the greatest amount of growth.
Grant was very nearly a non-factor in his rookie season, unrostered for half of the games and only active for three in total, but he will likely not be afforded that in year two. in 2016, he figures to be under the microscope to show that he can be a contributor, whether that is at cornerback or safety—but most importantly, on special teams.