The Pittsburgh Steelers have found it difficult to get good return on investment during their recent attempts to make trades, but they are hoping to have turned their luck around this season. They have already managed to land a third-round pick for a wide receiver now facing another possible year-long banishment, which netted them quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Now they are getting good returns—literally—from wide receiver Ryan Switzer, for whom they traded late in the preseason, along with a sixth-round draft pick, in exchange for their own pick in the fifth round.
In spite of the fact that he has only been here for a couple of weeks, the team is even already using him on the offensive side of the ball. He got a couple of looks in the sidecar role standing next to Ben Roethlisberger, which resulted in him carrying the ball once for eight yards. He was targeted once in the passing game, but the pass was defended by the linebacker in coverage.
Of course, he was brought in to be their return man, and he is off to a good start on that front. He returned five punts against the Cleveland Browns for a total of 55 yards, averaging 11 yards per return with a long of 22. He also returned three kickoffs for a 23-yard average that is better than it looks.
His longest kick return was also his first. Following a Tyrod Taylor scrambling score, he took a kick out from two yards deep in the end zone and was able to take it out to the 26 for a 28-yard return. His average is skewed by a short kick that only reached the 14-yard line, but he returned that one 14 yards out to the 28. Another kick reached the four, which he returned 27 yards to the 31. So on three returns, he gave the Steelers an average starting field position of the 28.3-yard line.
We are going to take a deeper look at Switzer’s work in the return game as the week goes on, but I also want to point out that he had a punt return for 34 yards that was called back as a result of a pair of holds by Roosevelt Nix and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
At least for the moment, it certainly appears as though the team is eager to get Switzer involved as quickly as possible. He has already seemingly cemented himself in the return role for both punts and kicks—the reason he was brought in—but he also worked ahead of James Washington as the number four receiver.
Still, that will change, surely, even if he ends up passing Justin Hunter once the rookie is up to speed on the offense. What likely will not change is his impact in the return game, which has so far yielded positive results, both in numbers and through the eye test.