Coming from Alabama—specifically the Crimson Tide college football program under Nick Saban—isn’t an automatic ticket to a roster spot in the NFL. Just ask Joshua Frazier, an Alabama defensive lineman the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted in the seventh round last year, who failed to make even the practice squad and is currently retired.
While it may not be a guarantee, however, it certainly helps, or so says the Steelers’ latest Alabama lineman, sixth-round pick Isaiah Buggs, who talked about the influence of Saban and the Crimson Tide program during rookie minicamp with respect to his preparedness to perform at this level.
“Out of 100 percent of them, probably 99 percent of them are in the league”, Buggs told the team’s website about Alabama players, though of course that’s hyperbole. He was asked about why Frazier was the anomaly, and why he would not be. “Just from Coach Saban, doing what you’re supposed to do and buying in. It’ll get you where you need to be”.
As anybody reading this should be aware, Alabama is regarded as the premiere college football program and has been for some time, as they have the hardware to back it up, with a number of national championships added to their showcase under his reign.
Not only do they win at the college level, however, Saban’s players also have a strong history of making it in the NFL. They might not all be stars, but they’re professionals who can be relied upon to do what is asked of them to do.
“Just the whole team buying in because they want to win”, is what Buggs suggested as the key to the program’s success. “When you get a group of guys that buy into the program and do what they’re supposed to do, the whole team will be successful”.
What Buggs has that Frazier lacked is pass rush ability, which should give him a much better chance of making the roster. The Steelers have lacked a quality pass rusher off the bench for about half a decade or so.
He did get more opportunities for playing time during his career at Alabama than did Frazier, especially this past season, so hopefully that will make him more prepared to hit the ground running at the NFL level.
I haven’t heard anything about how he looked at rookie minicamp, but I suppose such observations for a defensive lineman are going to be somewhat limited, especially if they don’t clearly have superior athletic traits.
OTAs begin in a couple of days, so it will be interesting to see where he lines up. My guess is that Lavon Hooks will be working with the second-team unit over him and others such as Casey Sayles and Greg Gilmore.