Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR Ray-Ray McCloud
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: Considering the fact that he wasn’t even a part of the Steelers’ roster when training camp broke, the fact that ended up in consideration for post-season awards as a return specialist certainly represents an improvement in his value.
Originally a sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2018, Ray-Ray McCloud has bounced around since arriving in the NFL by way of Clemson. A 5’9”, 190-pounder, he doesn’t necessarily offer much in the way of traditional receiving skills, but he has had an opportunity to carve out a role for himself as a returner in the league.
And he potentially found his niche in landing with the Steelers this past season. Signed in late August during training camp, he ended up making the 53-man roster as the fifth wide receiver, when they actually ordinarily keep five, but he proved to be worth the move.
Although his numbers dipped over the course of the season, he still finished with overall respectable numbers, finishing in the top five or 10 in virtually every return category. He returned 29 punts during the year for 298 yards, averaging 10.3 yards per, while picking up 646 kick return yards on 28 kick returns, averaging 23.1 yards.
While there are certainly some things for him to work on, particularly in regards to decision-making, he has enough speed, elusiveness, and instinct to be a successful and potentially dangerous return man, assuming that he stays with the team for more than one season.
Pittsburgh hasn’t had much of a homerun threat at the kick returner position for many years, even if JuJu Smith-Schuster did eventually break one in the finale of his rookie season in 2017. McCloud threatened to break a number of returns in 2020.
And he also got some burn on offense, logging 165 snaps, often used as the fourth receiver in four-receiver sets due to his elusiveness out of the slot. He surprisingly caught 20 passes on 22 targets, albeit for just 77 yards, reflecting his average depth of target of minus-1.5 yards, which is ridiculous. He also got a couple of end-arounds on which he can be deadly, breaking one for 58 yards.