I don’t think there is any doubt that the reason the Pittsburgh Steelers made the decision to trade for wide receiver Ryan Switzer was because they wanted to make a move in the hopes of improving their return game on special teams. General Manager Kevin Colbert said as much after the trade was made, at least in so far as acknowledging that the returner position was an area in which they really felt they needed an upgrade.
But that doesn’t mean that they don’t also anticipate the second-year man being able to offer contributions in some capacity to the wide receiver position. After all, quite frankly, he might have to. It will be a tall task for the Steelers to consistently dress six wide receivers, and with Darrius Heyward-Bey not much of an offensive contributor, Switzer could be the active number four if Justin Hunter does not dress for a game.
Switzer was only acquired days before the team’s final preseason game, but he did take two snaps on the offensive side of the ball. He also returned one punt for nine yards and two kickoffs for a 21-yard average during the game. He is listed as the first-team returner for both punts and kicks heading into Sunday.
But will he do anything else?
During his pre-game press conference yesterday, Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked about that very subject. “Is a full week of practice enough to get Switzer up to speed enough so that you could use him as a receiver, or just right now as a returner?”, was the exact question that he received at the end of the press conference.
“Certainly. It is”, was his exact answer. “We’re comfortable with that and we’re going to explore some of that”.
Switzer is a player that the Steelers scouted a lot coming out of college following the 2016 college season. The team had been in the habit of sharpening their collective scouting tools for the quarterback position and got a lot of eyes on him while watching the tape of Mitchell Trubisky.
Of course, they already drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round well before Switzer came off the board. But now they have both. Meanwhile, the player that the Dallas Cowboys acquired in trading him away—2016 second-round defensive end Jihad Ward—was already released. He is now on the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad.
So will we see Switzer line up with the offense at all during Sunday’s game? I’m guessing that we probably will. After all, Vance McDonald was acquired just prior to the final preseason game a year ago and also played in the regular season opener.