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Mountaineers in the Pros

Zach Frazier Part of What’s Being Called Best 2024 Rookie Matchup

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Steelers center Zach Frazier

(Chris Ward, Steelers Now) 

Rookie-on-rookie matchups are always intriguing. Two years ago George Pickens against Sauce Gardner was an anticipated battle. This year, The Athletic’s Chris Burke tabbed Pittsburgh Steelers’ second-round selection Zach Frazier against Washington Commanders defensive tackle Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton as one of the best rookie matchups on the 2024 NFL schedule.

Unless something unforeseen happens, Frazier should be a plug-and-play starter at center in Year 1

“Frazier already can be penciled in as the Steelers’ starting center, assuming he doesn’t suffer any setbacks returning from the broken leg that ended his final season at West Virginia,” Burke wrote. “Newton has injury issues himself — he’s scheduled for a second surgery on his foot. He’ll also have to steal some snaps from Washington’s stalwart DT combo of Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.”

Newton, who stands at 6-foot-2 3/4, 304 pounds, was selected by Washington in the second round (36th overall) in the NFL Draft.

Newton broke onto the draft scene in at Illinois in 2022, when he racked up 62 tackles, 14 for a loss and 5.5 sacks. He followed that up with another strong season in 2023, playing in one fewer game but still posting 52 tackles, 8.5 for a loss and 7.5 sacks.

Frazier is not an elite athlete, but he’s a technician. He’s a former wrestler, so he plays with good leverage and balance. Newton is explosive, powerful and disruptive. Frazier certainly will have his hands full in Week 10 at Commanders Field in Landover, Maryland. Not only with Newton, but the entire Commanders’ front. They have a solid interior unit with Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Newton.

Frazier is well-aware of the Steelers legendary history at the center position. It adds some pressure, but he’s just focusing on getting the job done.

“It’s a little bit of extra pressure on me, but I’m just going to work as hard as I can,” Frazier said at rookie minicamp. “Try to put my head down and just work.”

This story initially appeared on our partner Steelers Now.

Click here for more of WV Sports Now’s coverage of Zach Frazier.

For a related story, Frazier discussed why he fits so well with the Steelers.

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