2018 South Side Questions: Should Switzer See More Active Role In Offense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are out of Latrobe and back at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the regular season, where everything is magnified and, you know, actually counts. The team is working through the highs and lows and dramas that go through a typical Steelers season.

How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Should Ryan Switzer be seeing a more active role in the offense in the absence of the emergence of a legitimate number three wide receiver?

The addition of wide receiver Ryan Switzer just before the regular season began was thought to be a relatively minor one, at least as far as the offense was concerned. While it was known that he was going to operate as their return man, it wasn’t obvious that he would have a meaningful role at his natural position.

That wasn’t the case during his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys, and it wasn’t how the Oakland Raiders appeared likely to want to use him once they traded for him. The Steelers also acquired the second-year receiver due to his return ability, but Mike Tomlin was clear from the very start that he would be involved in the offense as well.

He even played a few snaps in the season opener shortly after signing. He was targeted early in the game, on a third down—and he dropped it, naturally. But through nine games now, he has secured 18 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.

The 6.6 yards per reception number might strike you as terrible, but not if you look at the way he has typically been used to date, which has been more an extension of the running game. Consider the very simple fact that his average depth of target is just 3.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. And that includes a busted play on a bad pass that he ended up catching for minus-five yards.

The Steelers are not using Switzer to the maximum of his capacity, however, with the eternal hope that the next game will be the one that James Washington breaks out. But while we’re waiting, perhaps they should consider making their other new receiver a more regular feature rather than a specialist.

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