He may have lost out on his opportunity to be a starter in college in part because of an injury allowing other plays to pass him up on the depth chart—players who ended up being drafted in the first and second rounds, mind you—but Pittsburgh Steelers rookie seventh-round defensive tackle Joshua Frazier isn’t letting any more opportunities slip through his fingers.
And he’s bringing the lessons he learned in Tuscaloosa along with him to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “I know what I can do and I’m going to take advantage of my opportunity”, he said during OTAs. “I take those same fundamentals that I was taught at Alabama and I bring it out to this field and try to execute every day”.
Of course the rookie does have one huge advantage on his side: the Steelers hired his college defensive line coach, Karl Dunbar, to take over the same job in Pittsburgh. The fact that the team drafted him shows that Dunbar believes he can play, and the coach also knows how to work with him. He’ll head an advantage in knowing Dunbar’s coaching style too.
But he is still leaning on the veterans of the team to get himself sorted as he makes the transition from college to the pros. “The older guys, Cam Heyward and Tuitt, all those guys are helping me out, just helping me make that transition a little bit cleaner”, he told the team’s website.
The fact that he ended up in a backup capacity at the college level surely does make the transition somewhat more difficult, even if he isn’t being expected to come and start at this level. Just the level of live repetitions that he was unable to get, however, is something that he has to make up for.
Still, he’s not one to carry baggage over from season to season. “Every year’s a new year for me, you just go back to the drawing board”, he said.
“You just gotta keep getting better, better and better every year. You start off with zero sacks, zero tackles, zero everything. It’s about coming back to the field and just going to work every day. You gotta come here and every day, keep going to work, keep getting better”.
If those are the sorts of values he was taught while at Alabama, then all the better. The truth is we can’t really even say because it’s been a long time since the Steelers have taken a player from the Crimson Tide. Not even in this millennium.
Frazier is expected to come in and compete for the backup nose tackle job, which is occupied by incumbent Daniel McCullers, a fifth-year veteran who one figures is on thin ice. Others like undrafted rookie Greg Gilmore and super-first-year player Lavon Hooks will also look to get in the competition for that spot.