What’s Wrong With Ryan Switzer?

To preface, as I said yesterday, the Pittsburgh Steelers acquiring Ryan Switzer is a good move. But, in the interest of being thorough, the question remains: why was Switzer available?

Being fair, you could ask that question about any player traded. And that doesn’t inherently make them a red flag. But Switzer is a little different, now dealt twice since April’s draft. First, from Dallas to Oakland and now, Oakland to Pittsburgh.

That is much more uncommon. So again you have to ask, why?

From what I can tell, there’s three reasons.

1. Scheme Fit/Use

Switzer is a space player. Undersized, twitchy, and capable of making big plays. But like most players cut from that cloth, it can be frustrating to find a consistent role or fit. The Steelers know this well, missing on Dri Archer and Chris Rainey who were viewed as similar players. Swizer is more receiver than running back but it’s fair to ask where his ceiling lies on offense.

As a rookie in Dallas, he saw less than 100 snaps on offense, touching the ball only ten times (six receptions, four rushes), averaging under five yards per touch. As a Steeler, he’ll be a backup option in the slot, but what he can offer as a receiver is still wholly unknown. He seems to have the skillset to succeed but you don’t know until he’s asked to do it.

2. Ball Security 

But the main purpose of bringing him in is what Switzer offers as a return man. Numbers-wise, he saw success as a kick and punt returner in 2017, one of the rare guys who can do both. If you’re going to be a strong return man, that begins with top ball security. Something that wasn’t always there with him.

In the second quarter against the LA Rams, Switzer made a reckless decision to try and return this punt, coughing it up. The Rams recovered and it kickstarted their comeback, down 17-6 at the time, winning it 35-30 over the Cowboys.

3. Spotty Production

Then there’s the production itself. Numbers only offer so much context and to be honest, I haven’t delved into all the research, but there’s some concern there too. Eight of his 24 kick returns, that’s one-third of them, went for less than 20 yards. And ten of his 29 punt returns went for four yards or fewer. Maybe blame that on blocking, hangtime, weather, or some other factor. But he hasn’t proven to be a top notch guy in that area yet either.

Again, overall, it was a fair risk assessment by the Steelers that fills a couple needs. Worst-case scenario, Switzer bombs and the Steelers lose about 15-20 spots in draft position. It’s definitely worth it. But Kevin Colbert’s track record of trades has been…spotty. Let’s hope he doesn’t become the next J.J. Wilcox.

Or Justin Gilbert.

Or Brandon Boykin.

Or Josh Scobee.

*somebody please stop me*

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