Ray-Ray McCloud played a career-high 22 snaps on offense on Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Baltimore Ravens. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but there are multiple factors that make that number more significant than it looks on paper.
For one thing, the Steelers only had 50 snaps in the game, so in spite of the fact that it’s only four more snaps than his previous season-high, it represents a substantially larger percentage. His snap total on Sunday accounted for 42 percent of Pittsburgh’s offensive snaps.
More significant is the fact that this is the first time during the season in which he played a notable total of offensive snaps in a game in which the Steelers’ skill position were healthy. Previously, of course, Diontae Johnson had been sidelined for the bulk of three consecutive games. James Washington’s snap count took the hit.
Randy Fichtner talked about McCloud’s playing time against the Ravens and the development that he has seen in the young wide receiver since the Steelers originally signed him to the offseason roster in the middle of August during training camp.
“I think he is developing. I think what is now caught up in time, he had a couple weeks there in training camp, or maybe last week all these games are like his preseason”, he told reporters today, via transcript provided by the team’s PR department. “He has done such a remarkable job in the kick return game for us and special teams, things we have asked him to do. His development just keeps improving”.
Fichtner also praised Steelers first-year wide receiver coach Ike Hilliard for the job that he has done in developing McCloud, “just getting him to be in positions to be able to utilize his skillset. There are certain personnel groups we definitely want to use him in. There’s ways we want to try and get him the football and incorporate him into the system”.
Against the Ravens, McCloud’s playing time skewed toward the second half, which was run primarily from a no-huddle look with Ben Roethlisberger managing the plays, which he described as backyard football in which he was micromanaging which route combinations and bunches would be run from play to play.
“Last week, it just fell in a couple packages and it just happened to be the packages of our mode of operation for that week”, Fichtner noted. “I really like where Ray-Ray is at, but I really like where a lot of those skill guys are at this time. He is a unique guy because he has quickness, he has toughs, he can catch the football extremely well. I love what he is doing for our special teams and our team right now”.
These are interesting comments, but ultimately hedging remarks, which posit that while they would like to use McCloud more offensively in certain packages, last week’s numbers shouldn’t necessarily be read as indicative of future use, and I think that’s fair.