PITTSBURGH — NFL players that don’t get drafted often tout that they need just one chance to showcase what they can do to the coaching staff in order to make a push for the team. That is exemplified by undrafted free agents. However, guys that did not even get signed in the initial wave of undrafted free agents? They have even more to prove. The Steelers could have someone just like that this year.
Last year, that was Jaylen Warren, who came onto the scene. But another running back in rookie Alfonzo Graham could be the guy to be that guy this year. Graham impressed in minicamp and OTAs, including with his daring call out of Minkah Fitzpatrick at the team’s OTAs sessions. But it is all a mindset for Graham, who aspires to reach the next level.
“This stuff is just in me,” Graham said. “That’s just me. I have no fear. I want to go up against the competition, the guy that is the best. He’s handling his business and I want to see where my iron has to be so I can sharpen it. It doesn’t matter to me. I want my name to be out there. You know how everyone knows Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. Watt? That’s how I want to be when they say Alfonzo Graham’s name. Going up against the best is how you do that.”
Graham is shooting for the stars and the Steelers are taking notice. Running backs coach Eddie Faulkner sees a player that is getting better each day he takes the field. Being coached in explicit detail, Faulkner sees a guy who is hungry and wants to learn. Graham still has some things to work on, with pass protection and others intricate details, but he is a player who seemingly is on the upswing throughout the weeks.
“He’s explosive,” Faulkner said. “He’s got a quick start. He can get to speed quick. He’s smart. He’s got a skill set in terms as a receiver. He’s got a lot to learn. That guy gets better every single day because he’s getting coached with detail and those things. And so if we just continue to build on that, you might have something there.”
Don’t tell Graham that he does belong with the Steelers or in the NFL. He continues to prove that he has the right mindset for this league. Things like calling out Fitzpatrick are just one of the things that is eyebrow raising about Graham. If he can keep up the momentum in training camp, there is a good chance that Graham could end up at the very least on the practice squad, though he will fight for the No. 3 roster spot.
“I belong here,” Graham said. “Don’t sleep on HBCU athletes. It doesn’t matter what school you come from. We belong. I believe I belong here.”
Graham will look to be that next gem that comes out of nowhere. It seems the Steelers have been able to find those guys in the past, with unheralded guys such as Mike Hilton establishing themselves as legitimate players in the NFL with the team seemingly out of nowhere.