Ryan Switzer has, for the most part, been lauded for his contributions to date during his short tenure with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Functioning primarily as their return man, the second-year wide receiver has certainly played well overall, and has contributed on offense as well, even scoring a touchdown.
Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals, however, was not his best as a returner. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but there are a couple of circumstances that stuck out in particular in which he did the team no favors.
The first one came at the end of the Bengals’ opening drive. Punting from his own 22-yard line, Kevin Huber surprised Switzer by getting off a big 62-yard boot. He was unable to field it, which resulted in it continuing to roll toward the goal line, ultimately settling at the 16, flipping the field position.
He had a better time on punt returns later in the game, even when it came to making fair catches. Here, late in the first half, he simply did well to get what he could, scampering for seven yards as he ran away from the Bengals’ coverage team. There wasn’t opportunity for much else.
Just before the end of the first half, he fielded a kickoff angled toward the return right at the two-yard line. He chose to stick to the sideline as the safer option, though it appeared as though an alley may have been forming to his left. It was largely moot since the Steelers just took a knee to end the half. Barring a big return that was the only thing that was ever going to happen.
Arguably his best play came late in the third quarter when he tracked another booming Huber punt over his shoulder. Fielding it 63 yards down the field, Switzer was able to get himself turned around quickly, shaking the first defender and picking up 15 yards to put the offense at the 24 instead of inside its own 10.
But at the end of the game, with under 80 seconds to play, he did field a kick from inside the end zone which he returned, failing to make it out to the 25. They were trailing and time was of the essence, so he wasted a bit.
What’s more, it looks as though there may have been a cutback opportunity around to his right. He had all Bengals coverage players at or close by the near hashmark by the time he committed to going up the middle. After seeing Cincinnati break off a couple of chunk returns, it would have been nice to see them get one back at such a critical spot.