I think that is has become obvious at this point that Ryan Switzer is more than just a kick and punt returner for the Pittsburgh Steelers this year. Acquired via trade right before the regular season started, the team’s stated reason for bringing him in was because they wanted to address the return position, but he has certainly gotten his opportunities on offense as well.
In fact, he started Monday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Steelers opening in the 01 personnel package. As has been often the case in this look, he lined up in the sidecar next to Ben Roethlisberger. On this occasion, he ran into the flat, heading up to the sideline, but he was caught after three yards on a nice play by Lavonte David, one of the most athletic linebackers in the league.
While the Steelers brought a running back on the field, Switzer stayed in as the number three receiver for the next play, working out of the slot on the right side. James Conner got the ball, and you can see the receiver showing some effort in the blocking department.
Later in the quarter, they broke out the 01 package again, Switzer in the backfield. Roethlisberger used his presence for play-action, throwing a quick pass to Antonio Brown for four yards. Not a successful play, in part because Alejandro Villanueva was slowed to the perimeter, but you can see the potential.
Switzer caught a season-high three passes in Tampa, and the second went for just a yard, but ended up in the end zone. He started in the backfield and checked underneath Brown on the left side to stack the coverage, and the route combination got him open toward the left pylon for the score.
His third reception came in the third quarter, again from the 01 personnel package (as was the touchdown above). running an out from the slot, he got the ball easily but again had trouble getting past David, who made the tackle after a five-yard gain on second and 14.
If there is one limitation that Switzer has shown so far, it has been his ability to pick up yards after the catch. He has done well to get open, but we are waiting for him to show what he can do with the ball in his hands. Of course, you would think he has something to contribute in this department as a returner.