Even if they used a fourth-round pick on him, which got him a pretty decent contract that he is still playing under two teams later, the Dallas Cowboys did wide receiver Ryan Switzer no favors. They pegged him as a return specialist right off the bat, and that is also how the Oakland Raiders viewed him when they acquired him in April of 2018.
The Pittsburgh Steelers also emphasized his return abilities when they brought him into the fold in August, but in spite of that, they also immediately integrated him into the offense. He received a pass target on the team’s opening drive of the season—which he dropped—in spite of the fact that he had only been with the team for a couple of weeks at that point.
And even though he literally dropped the ball on the first chance he got, Ben Roethlisberger kept coming to him and the coaching staff kept putting him on the field. He ended the season with the third-most receptions and receiving yards on the team among the wide receivers. And for that whole experience, he is truly grateful, considering where he had been a year ago.
“I always knew how to play the receiver position. I think that got lost last year because of a stigma that was they put on me elsewhere as being just a return specialist guy”, he told the team’s website in a recently published article.
“The Steelers who evaluated me coming out of the draft, they knew the production I had in college. For them to trust that, even though I wasn’t used like that in Dallas, meant a lot. The first week I was here Coach Tomlin made sure I knew that I wasn’t just here to be a return guy”.
Through his four seasons at North Carolina, Switzer caught 243 passes for 2903 yards with 19 touchdowns. His best season came in his senior year when Mitchell Trubisky took over, catching 96 passes for 1112 yards and six scores.
During his first season with the Steelers, he would ultimately record 36 receptions for 253 yards and a touchdown, bettering his receiving numbers from his rookie season by a factor of six. He was also used as a gadget runner on six plays for another 21 yards, which were often used in short-yardage situations.
In spite of his contributions to the offense, of course, he was also the team’s return man, recording 30 kick returns as well as 30 punt returns. While he did not perform particularly well statistically in this area, at least some of that can be attributed to the return unit’s unfamiliarity with one another.
He also expressed his disappointment with his own performance in this area and said that one of his goals in 2019 was to break off a return touchdown, of which he had seven on punts during his college career. He took a punt for a score during his rookie season in Dallas as well. His longest punt return last season was just 23 yards, his longest kick return 35.