The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
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: Who will be the Steelers’ primary kick returner in 2020?
I’m sure just about everybody reading this is aware of the research Alex Kozora has done in the past about just how unstable the Steelers’ kick return game has been over the course of Mike Tomlin’s tenure. Long story short, Ryan Switzer last season was the first player in a long while to start the season as the team’s primary kick returner twice. It’s hard to build chemistry with constant changeover.
Worse still, as often as not, the players who actually end up doing the kick return jobs hadn’t been doing it in the preseason, and have been doing it only on a limited basis in training camp. JuJu Smith-Schuster was seemingly just tossed the job on a whim during his rookie season in 2017, even though he actually did a solid job overall.
As it stands, Switzer remains the incumbent returner, having held the job fairly steadily up to his injury. He is still on the roster, though one can argue that his roster spot is in jeopardy, even if the release of Johnny Holton does allow for a ‘special teams wide receiver’ spot not currently occupied.
The person who replaced him is Kerrith Whyte, the running back they signed off the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. He had about one good return, but coming in on the fly, it’s hard to have success. While he is still on the roster, he is not guaranteed a roster spot.
Will one of these two be the Steelers’ primary kick returner in 2020, or will it be somebody else? Perhaps somebody not even on the team yet?