Joshua Frazier is an outlier for today’s NFL. He’s a throwback to a different era, the traditional one-tech nose tackle there to clog up the run and not much else. That’s what the Steelers were looking for when they made him their last pick of the 2018 draft.
“Taking him late in the draft was something that we needed,” new DL coach Karl Dunbar said in an article by the PPG’s James Crabtree-Hannigan. “[Coach Mike Tomlin] wanted a big-bodied guy, and he’s working out.”
Frazier, weighing in at 321 pounds, will have to prove he’s up to that task. Not that he’ll be counted on to play right away, if he does, something has gone wrong, but enough to earn a spot on the 53 man roster. It will be a tightly contested battle between himself, Daniel McCullers (who the Steelers surprisingly decided to keep around, maybe because of Dunbar), UDFA Greg Gilmore, and the rest of the field from around the league.
Keith Butler has stressed the need to get better at stopping the run. If Frazier can show that value, he’ll have a great chance of making the roster.
Still, even if he does, it’s unlikely he’ll be active out of the gate. L.T. Walton has gotten enough exposure to be the backup NT on gamedays, assuming the Steelers have only five available per week. That means Frazier has – and will continue to be – to settle for a backup role. Something he’s used to, given the surplus of talent at Alabama.
“I played behind [former Alabama defensive lineman Daron Payne], but when I was out there I just took advantage of my opportunity and made the best of the plays that I got,” Frazier told the Post-Gazette.
That means making those training camp and preseason count, a limited window and amount of snaps to impress. But he’s playing for his college coach, in a 3-4 system, and one that still sees the value in those wide loads up front. Pittsburgh is as good a place as Frazier could’ve landed.