Second-year Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Doran Grant surely did not have the rookie season that he was hoping for, but that doesn’t mean that he didn’t continually try to better himself over the course of the 2015 season through his ups and downs.
Drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft as one of two cornerback selected in the top four rounds, Grant made the initial 53-man roster only to be released a day later in order to make room for additional signings and waiver claims. He was added to the practice squad, where he spent about half the season.
Even though he surely must have been disappointed to have been bumped off the 53-man roster so quickly after believing that he had made it, he did not sulk, but rather, when given the opportunity, simply went back to what he had been doing during training camp: covering All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown.
As Mike Prisuta recapped for the team’s website back in August, it was a routine sight during the Steelers’ training camp to see the mid-round rookie cornerback being paired against the elite wide receiver. Grant simply chalked it up to quality experience, saying of the experience, “you learn what the top dogs look like”.
Though he wasn’t on the 53-man roster for a good portion of the regular season, he was still on the practice squad, and that means he was still a part of the team’s practice sessions. Of course, practice squad players are every bit a part of the team outside of the ability to participate in games, and perhaps are not as detailed in the game-planning.
Yesterday, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN talked about Grant as a ‘surprise player to watch’ as the team begins its offseason work, relaying that he found himself “often asking to cover Antonio Brown in practices”. After all, if you’re a guy low on the ladder, looking to climb your way up, you might as well grab hold of the highest rung you can and start pulling.
While he did get called up to the 53-man roster later in the year, he only ended up dressing for three games, logging one snap on defense and a handful of snaps on special teams. He briefly battled a groin injury at the end of the regular season, and did not dress for the playoff game against the Bengals.
Grant was passed over in favor of Ross Cockrell, whose same-day signing as the final roster cuts ultimately prompted his release the next day, and eventually Brandon Boykin as well. Both players were only acquired in August, while he has obviously been with the team learning the defense since May.
With two cornerback losses in free agency, and a year under his belt, Grant figures to stand a better chance at making the 53-man roster this year, and possibly even contributing if necessary, along with Senquez Golson, who is returning from a stint on injured reserve that wiped out his rookie season. at the very least, he has already learned what it’s like to cover a top dog. What bigger challenge can he face than covering Antonio Brown?