The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: Deon Cain has a better chance of making the Steelers’ 53-man roster than Ryan Switzer.
Explanation: While it’s entirely possible that both wide receivers—and potentially even neither—end up on the Steelers’ 53-man roster in 2020, it’s an interesting debate to have as to which one has better odds. Switzer is close to Ben Roethlisberger (seen with him at the West Virginia game recently, for example), but Roethlisberger doesn’t actually make roster decisions, no matter how big his beard gets.
Considering the fact that Switzer’s playing time on offense drained down to near bupkis levels by the end of his time on the 53-man roster in 2019 (he finished the season on injured reserve), and mixing in the fact that the team may well now have viable alternatives for his return man jobs, things are not looking great for Switzer, in my estimation.
There are already three solid locks at wide receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington. It’s pretty much a guarantee that they will add at least one wide receiver who will make the 53-man roster this offseason, either via free agency or the draft, if not both.
Switzer isn’t old by any means, but Cain is clearly somebody with more upside, and potentially adds a dimension to the offense they don’t otherwise have. He was able to flash playmaking ability with Devlin Hodges throwing to him. I think Roethlisberger would like him just fine.
Cain’s body of work is so small that it’s virtually meaningless. Yes, he made a few plays when he was given the opportunity. So did Cobi Hamilton, and plenty of other journeyman players like them. You know where they end up? On the Seattle Dragons or the Houston Roughnecks, or somewhere up in Canada.
Johnson and Washington are both primarily outside guys. Switzer is a slot receiver through and through, and would be the number two behind Smith-Schuster in that role. While Johnson did well as a punt returner, he did not return kicks, and Kerrith Whyte is no lock to make the team even at his own position, so Switzer can still very much edge out Cain, like he did Eli Rogers last year, with the special teams factor.