PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers’ running game ranks 30th in the NFL, so they turned to a familiar face to possibly give it a boost.
The Steelers signed former University of Pittsburgh running back Ray Graham on Tuesday and placed him on their practice squad. Considering Pittsburgh’s issues running the football lately, Graham’s stay on the practice squad could be brief.
“They said they had an opportunity here and wanted me to come in and learn the playbook and get up to speed as fast as I could,” Graham said.
“So, that’s what I’ll do. I just wanted to go somewhere to get a chance to play. (But) it’s a good feeling, and it’s good to be back here in Pittsburgh. I felt real welcome when I got here, so they showed me a lot of love and respect.”
Graham practiced with the Steelers scout team all week and said he felt good.
“I’m just glad to get another chance,” Graham said. “It’s like starting all over again, learning different terminology for plays and things like that, but it’s all good. I’ll keep studying and working hard, and we’ll see what happens.”
Despite running for more than 3,000 yards at Pitt and recording nearly 5,000 yards from scrimmage, Graham was not selected during the 2013 NFL Draft.
However, he signed a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans and primarily worked on their practice squad.
“I was active for a couple games, like three weeks, and then they waived me because they had to sign a linebacker,” Graham said. “I would have been back on the practice squad, but the Steelers called me up. So, it was an easy decision to come here for a shot with the Steelers.”
Graham said that a torn ACL in his left knee during his junior year in 2011 likely had NFL teams shying away from him, even though he rebounded to have a solid 2012 with 1,042 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
“I felt like a lot of teams were scared to draft me after I had my knee injury, but I proved that I could play,” Graham said. “I showed everybody that I could play. (But) I’m healthy now, and I’m ready to go. You’ll see, once I get a chance, so I’m very excited to be back in Pittsburgh, playing for the Steelers.”
Graham was assigned No. 37, the same uniform number he had with the Texans. Graham wore No. 1 at Pitt.
NOTES: Safety Shamarko Thomas (ankle) and linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (hamstring) are out this week, but linebacker LaMarr Woodley (calf) and defensive end Brett Keisel (foot) were upgraded to questionable after missing last week. Keisel said he did enough work in practice where he engaged with an offensive lineman, put weight on it and moved laterally, things he needs to do in games. ... Tackle Kelvin Beachum (hip), wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot), guard Ramon Foster (ankle), tight end Heath Miller (not injury related) and center Fernando Velasco (knee) all practiced Friday and are probable.