It should probably go without saying that getting the opportunity to work in a new environment under somebody who you already know, and who knows you, can be a big advantage for you. Assuming of course that you got along with that person. Both practically and mentally, it is a significant boost to have that sort of continuation that rarely exists.
But that is what Pittsburgh Steelers rookie defensive tackle Joshua Frazier is getting the opportunity to experience during his first taste of professional football, as the team that drafted him also hired his college position coach to the same post, that being Karl Dunbar.
He knows that’s an advantage. Dunbar “knows what I can do already”, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dunbar has previously spent about a decade in the NFL as a defensive line coach, but was recruited by Nick Saban to join him at Alabama. Saban was not thrilled about losing him.
Frazier told the paper that having his coach there with him helps to put his mind at ease because he already knows what to expect out of Dunbar as a coach, and as a personality. And perhaps even more importantly, he doesn’t feel obligated to prove that he’s capable of playing football, because he has already seen it for two years.
Something that he has already frequently talked about when asked to address the topic of preparedness this offseason is the fact that he believes having played at Alabama gives him a better edge in terms of being ready to play in the NFL than most have. The Crimson Tide tend to play tougher opponents who regularly send talent to the NFL, and they have the same talent that he has to practice against.
Not that he himself was one of the stars. As we know of his story by now, Frazier quickly lost playing time early in his college career in part due to an injury that created an opportunity for others, such as DaRon Payne, get on the field, and they never looked back.
So he spent most of his career serving as a reserve and playing in-game sparingly, but he has been able to use that to his advantage during OTAs and training camp. He knows that he won’t be getting a ton of reps behind players like Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt.
The latter of those two said that Frazier has been “doing a really good job” of getting “as much information as possible” into the reps that he does get on the field. The fewer opportunities you are given, the more you have to get out of them.
The Alabama product has one ultimate task this offseason, which is to make the 53-man roster. The clearest way to do that is to make himself a more attractive option than Daniel McCullers, a veteran going into his fifth season, but who has been on thin ice.