When Joshua Frazier was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the seventh round last year, he knew he had an ‘in’: his college position coach for the previous two seasons, Karl Dunbar, also happened to his new coach in Pittsburgh. In some ways, he would have a leg up on even the veterans due to his familiarity with their coach and his working habits.
That proved to be insufficient for the big man, as he not only failed to make the 53-man roster, the Steelers did not offer him a spot on the practice squad, retaining Lavon Hooks instead for a second straight year. Frazier spent time on another team’s practice squad briefly, and then was a backup in the AAF earlier this year, but has now elected to retire after his prospects proved more daunting than desired.
And now we have Isaiah Buggs, the second Dunbar pupil from Alabama drafted in the same number of years. Buggs comes to the Steelers one round higher, a sixth-round pick, and also had more playing time with the Crimson Tide—particularly last season, when Dunbar was already gone—and more success.
Still, which he was coached by somebody else during his best year, statistically, he knew what the Steelers connection meant, as he talked a lot about his relationship with his former, and now again current, position coach.
“He’s a great coach. He’s taught me everything I know to the ins and outs. Great leader, and I’m just ready to go to work for him again”, he said of Dunbar, which works as well as an endorsement of the relatively new face among the Steelers’ coaching staff.
He added that the coach was also a big reason that he chose to go to Alabama because of “the connection we had. The truth of him buying in on me and me buying in on him”. And now they’re buying in on each other once again.
Of course this doesn’t mean a whole lot. Frazier said similar things about his relationship with Dunbar and it didn’t prove to make much of a difference at all. He struggled to even get reps, either in practice or in the preseason, in spite of that. Even Dunbar admitted as much.
“I don’t think it has a lot of weight. I think the weight that it has is the weight if we get him here, and he’s in the room with me, he and I already have a relationship”, he said. “My weight is a little bit different. In the meeting rooms and on the field with that guy”, he added in contrasting his influence in getting his players into the door.
So for the second year in a row Dunbar gets a new player with whom he is already familiar. Will Buggs make him look better than Frazier did? A lot of people are expecting him to already. If he can offer up a semblance of a pass rush, he should.