Alfonzo Graham impressed the Pittsburgh Steelers coaches enough in his rookie minicamp tryout to earn a contract from the team after going undrafted in 2023. Now, the Morgan State product is trying to earn a spot on the team’s active roster just like Jaylen Warren did as an undrafted rookie last season.
At the Steelers’ mandatory minicamp last month, Graham quickly found out what it takes to make it in the NFL after he challenged Minkah Fitzpatrick to a mock tackling drill. To say the least, Graham lost the drill convincingly to Fitzpatrick.
Graham attempted to juke the three-time All-Pro safety but Fitzpatrick stood there unfazed and stunned the rookie. Graham learned a valuable lesson that day but earned his money’s worth simply by learning what it takes to beat a player of Fitzpatrick’s caliber.
“We aren’t in pads, but now I see the level I have to be at,” Graham said. “I thought I could juke him, and I couldn’t. That’s the same move I’ve used my entire career. But when someone like that is a vet and knows the game, he knew what was coming. He’s not going to let me do that. That’s just something I learned really quickly. This level is different.”
It is a moment that Graham later called his welcome to the NFL moment.
“That was definitely my welcome to the NFL moment,” Graham said. “But I want to compete and be against the best. There’s not fear there. I want to see the level I have to get to play a long time in this league.”
To play in the NFL for a long time will take a lot of work but Graham knows that and said that is the main reason that he called a high-level player out. Graham said that he wants to be remembered as one of the greats and will do anything to achieve that.
“That’s just me,” Graham said. “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.”
With Najee Harris and Warren already taking up two of the three running back roster spots, Graham will have to battle his way into a spot on the active roster. While the Steelers’ third running backs do not usually get many carries over the course of the entire season, they play a huge role on special teams.
For example, Benny Snell Jr. only recorded 22 carries last season and 12 of them came in one game but Snell played a huge role on special teams. Given Graham’s smaller frame, the tackling aspect of special teams may be a problem but he did average 22.3 yards per kickoff return in college.
Regardless, Graham will have to show up and show out in training camp and the preseason if he wants to steal the roster spot from the most likely candidate, Anthony McFarland Jr. There is a chance for Graham to end up on the team’s practice squad if he does not make the final roster but only time will tell.
29 • Alfonzo Graham, Running Back, Morgan State
5-foot-9, 195 pounds, 24 years old, 1st Season
Acquired: The Steelers signed Graham as an undrafted free agent following a rookie minicamp tryout on May 14, 2023.
Last Season: As a senior, Graham was one of the top running backs in the MEAC as he rushed for 1,150 yards on 196 carries. He ran for a career-high and conference-best 104.5 yards per game and eight touchdowns in 2022. He was the only MAEC rusher to average over 100 yards per game. Graham totaled five 100-yard games as a senior including a 203-yard performance against Norfolk State.
His 1,150 yards ranked sixth in school history for most rushing yards in a single season. Following the season, Graham was named first-team All-MEAC and Blue Bloods All-MEAC RB. Additionally, Graham played in the 2023 HBCU Legacy Bowl.
College: Graham started his collegiate career at Fullerton College. In 2019, Graham tallied 53 carries for 278 yards and two touchdowns for the Hornets. Following the season, Graham decided to transfer to Morgan State and walk onto the team.
Graham’s 2020 season was wiped out due to COVID so he did not see the field again until 2021. In his junior season at Morgan State, Graham appeared in nine games for the Bears and tallied 54 carries for 506 yards and five rushing touchdowns.
In his Morgan State career, Graham played in 20 games and recorded 250 carries for 1,656 yards and 13 touchdowns. Additionally, Graham averaged 22.3 yards per kickoff return in his collegiate career.
|Year||Team||GP||Carries||Rush Yards||Rush TDs|
Salary cap and future: The Steelers signed Graham to a three-year, $2.69 million after his rookie minicamp tryout. Graham’s contract has no guaranteed money attached to it so the Steelers could waive him and not incur any dead money in 2023 if they chose to do so. He will be a restricted free agent following the 2026 season.
The rest of the 90: