Adam Graessle knows he faces long odds just to make the Steelers' training camp roster, but the former Pitt punter/kick-off specialist just could not say no to yet another opportunity to try out with an NFL team.
That was especially true given his familiarity with the Steelers' organization and his experience with kicking at Heinz Field.
"I had been weighing my decision, whether to quit chasing this NFL dream and start working in the banking industry. And [I] even had a job offer to consider," said Graessle, who played at Pitt from 2003-06. "But I figure I am still young enough that I might as well take a few more shots before I finally give it up. It has been a great experience coming here and, if nothing else, another opportunity to get some tape of me.
"But I continue to learn and work hard."
Graessle, who is from Columbus, Ohio, said the Steelers were one of a handful of teams who contacted him in January after he had a very successful season punting for the California Redwoods of the United Football League.
"Right after the UFL, a couple teams wanted to work me out, and so I set up some workouts. But the Steelers were the first team I visited. And after the workout, they wanted to sign me," Graessle said. "So it was a very easy decision for me. Trust me, it doesn't always work out that way. I'm just real happy to back here in Pittsburgh, playing next door to Pitt, where I went to school.
"I'm always trying to compete, and obviously I want to play. But I also am realistic and know how things work, and they have [Daniel] Sepulveda, who is an awesome punter, and Jeff Reed, who is a great kicker.
"In the NFL, at our position, it is just real tough."
Graessle's chances to at least make it to training camp are a little better than it might seem because he is capable of kicking off, holding for place-kicks and punting. Because roster spots are so limited for punters and kickers, that versatility is his best asset.
The Steelers will take three kickers to camp: Reed, Sepulveda and either Graessle or free agent Piotr Czech. According to the team's special teams coach, Al Everest, the competition is very close for that third spot.
"I think the thing with Adam is he obviously has some very good tools to work with," Everest said Thursday after the Steelers' organized team activity session. "He is a big kid, he has some outstanding potential. The biggest concern is his consistency. I mean, that is what this league is all about, especially at that position: consistency.
"It is not about pretty good or potential. It is about consistency -- there are only 32 [punters] in the world -- and that is what he needs to show us. He has to improve on his willingness to get himself drilled the best he can."
Everest said the Steelers will only keep two kickers for the regular season, so Graessle would have to unseat Sepulveda to make the team and that is a long shot. But he said that Graessle could make it into training camp and that if he is able to do that it will give him some great opportunities to showcase his talents.
Graessle, who was with the Green Bay Packers last offseason, said that if he is unable to stick with the Steelers he will continue to search for an opportunity to get to a training camp and perhaps head back to the UFL if the right opportunity opens up.
"I think it would be worth it to give the UFL another try but you never know, I'm getting old," he said with a laugh. "And I really also want to do commercial banking or business banking when I am done, so it is not like this is the end of the line for me if it doesn't work out.
"But like I said, for right now I am going to work as hard as I can to try and make a roster and have an NFL career."
Paul Zeise can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1720 First Published May 28, 2010 4:30 AM