I don’t know how or why, but there hasn’t been a more active and vocal member of the Pittsburgh Steelers on their behalf this offseason than third-year wide receiver Ryan Switzer, whom the team acquired via trade in late August. It was the second time that he was traded that offseason in his second year in the league, so it really feels as though he feels almost indebted to the team for not treating him poorly.
In fact, he described his time with the Steelers last season as nothing short of “a joy”, though I suppose that’s what you want out of your football experience. Sure, it’s a job, but most athletes love the game that they play on some level. And so do the coaches. So if you have that in common, that’s usually a pretty good recipe for a healthy work environment.
“I know it’s weird saying it was that much fun because we went 9-6-1 and we missed the playoffs. But honestly it was one of the most enjoyable times I had”, he told the team’s website. “It was because of our receivers room,”, as well as the various coaches that he worked with. “It was a joy to come to work. It was a joy to be here. It wasn’t one of those things where you wake up in the morning and are dragging out of bed. It is a joy to be here. It makes me happy and excited for next year”.
Heading into next season, he will have a positional battle on his hands, even with Antonio Brown out of the picture. With JuJu Smith-Schuster on top of the food chain, he is one of five other wide receivers who likely will be fighting for opportunities, including free agent signing Donte Moncrief, 2018 second-rounder James Washington, veteran Eli Rogers, and rookie third-round pick Diontae Johnson.
Originally drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Switzer was used almost exclusively as a return man during his rookie season before getting some very late opportunities at wide receiver, more likely to be used as a gadget runner out of the backfield.
The Cowboys traded him to the Oakland Raiders in late April in exchange for defensive end Jihad Ward, a former second-round pick who did not make their roster. the Raiders went with Dwayne Harris as their return man, so turned around and dealt him to the Steelers for a swap of late-round picks.
Switzer previously said that the experience of being moved twice and feeling unwanted left him depressed and unsure of his football future, even with retirement from the game on his mind as a young newlywed if it wasn’t in the cards. But he gave Pittsburgh a chance to win him over, and they did, and then some.
“A new environment can be good for everybody”, he said. “To be around an organization that believed in me, a coaching staff that believed in me, and players that believed in me. That was the biggest thing. They allowed me to spread my wings, be who I am”.
Even with all that being true, given the moves that they have made this offseason, Switzer may still find difficulties in getting on the field. This is potentially the deepest group of wide receivers they’ve had in a while, even if not the most talented.