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Harris: Long odds don't bother Grisham

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Monday, Aug. 3, 2009

Tyler Grisham allegedly doesn't have the speed to go deep, but there he was somehow getting behind the Steelers' secondary to grab a long pass on the first day of practice.

Grisham is what's known as training-camp fodder. His measurables — height, weight, 40-time — don't stack up. He joined the team as an undrafted free agent following an undistinguished senior season at Clemson.

When he caught the ball Saturday for the longest pass play of the afternoon, I had to consult my roster because I didn't know who No. 19 was.

Grisham is the type of player who grows on you. The more you watch him, the more you realize he can play.

Forget his 40-time. He has football speed, similar to Wes Welker and Kevin Curtis.

"I'm going to have to play extremely well to make the team," Grisham said in the understatement of the year. "What's good is we have Hines Ward on the team. He's made a niche for himself in the NFL. He's played so long because he's smart, he has good hands, he's tough and runs good routes. That's what I think I bring."

Mind you, Grisham — 5-foot-11, 180 pounds — won't receive many opportunities with the Steelers, playing behind the likes of Ward, Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed, Shaun McDonald, Dallas Baker and Mike Wallace.

The Steelers kept five receivers last season, which means Grisham — barring injuries to veterans — is facing long odds.

He knows that, and he couldn't care less.

"I've had to work my way up from the bottom at every level," said Grisham, who recorded 132 receptions for 1,390 yards and eight touchdowns in his career at Clemson but had only 37 catches and one touchdown reception as a senior. "If I sit around and think I'm in a room with Super Bowl MVPs and (high) draft picks, I'm only going to think negative thoughts. You've got to go out there and think everybody's the same. I felt Pittsburgh would be a good place for me to compete."

NFL Draft analyst Mike Detillier gives Grisham high marks.

"He's tailor-made for what the Steelers do," Detillier said. "They like to throw that short intermediate stuff, have somebody go across the middle. He fits that mold."

Steelers college scout Dan Rooney Jr. is credited with finding Grisham. Rooney has a reputation for locating hidden gems — undrafted free agent Willie Parker comes to mind. Maybe Rooney saw something special in Grisham like he did in Parker.

Wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner said Grisham has a chance because he can play inside and outside and has the ability to take what he learns in the classroom and apply it on the field.

A voracious blocker, Grisham recorded 68.5 knockdowns in 2007, according to the Steelers' media guide.

"Dan Rooney scouts that area and was the first to tell me about him," Fichtner said. "(Offensive coordinator) Bruce Arians was also familiar with him. Some of the best route runners, some of the best receivers in the league, aren't always the fastest. He's solid. I haven't found a weakness yet.''

Of course, if Grisham was such a hot commodity at receiver, he would have been a first-round pick instead of an undrafted free agent. He knows the odds are stacked against him. To shorten those odds, he's also playing on special teams.

"I'm going to have to be extremely consistent, more than I ever have been," Grisham said. "They're working me in everything — punt returns, kickoff returns. That's how I have to make the team. I have to be very valuable."

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