Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is underway, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: WR Ryan Switzer
Stock Value: Down
In the week or so leading up to the draft, I wrote an article about the Steelers’ interest in scouting some college players who were also return men, including Diontae Johnson out of Toledo, and how that interest could be a bad sign for third-year wide receiver Ryan Switzer. The Steelers drafted Johnson. I still think it’s a bad sign for Switzer, so I’m lowering the value of his stock in the aftermath of this third-round selection.
Pittsburgh acquired Switzer, a 2017 fourth-round draft pick, via trade last August, swapping late-round picks with the Oakland Raiders, who have now swapped three different wide receivers in the past year. He was immediately established as their return man, a role that they were specifically looking to target.
He had success as a return man during his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys, which included a long return for a touchdown, but the numbers that he put up last year with the Steelers ranked toward the bottom of the league. Of the 12 players who returned at least 20 kicks last season, his 20.2-yard average was the worst. His 8.4 yards per punt return ranked 13th of 19 among players with at least 20 punt returns.
Oh, and Johnson can also play on offense, with Daryl Drake really gushing about his ability to make clean catches and gain separation, in addition to his versatility to play both inside and outside, something that Switzer—as well as Eli Rogers—lack.
At the moment, the wide receiver depth chart looks something like this: JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Donte Moncrief, Switzer, Rogers, and Johnson coming in. it’s common for them to keep six wide receivers, however, especially when it involves one or more active special teamers.
The selection of Johnson might not cost him his roster spot, but it could eat away at his playing time. You don’t draft a player with your second pick, at the top of the third round, and not expect him to contribute. He should at least in theory work his way into the top four this year, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for Switzer, among others.