The Pittsburgh Steelers are back in the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex earlier than they had anticipated, having been ousted from the postseason in the opening round, which unfortunately marks a slight improvement from the past two seasons, during which they did not even qualify for the playoffs altogether. They have now done four seasons without securing a victory beyond regular season play.
Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
They did manage to go 12-4 during the regular season, and secured their first AFC North title since 2017, posting a new franchise record by opening the season with 11 consecutive wins, but of course it all fell apart after that. Their only victory after that required a 17-point comeback.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between head coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2020 season.
Player: Ray-Ray McCloud
Experience: 3 Years
When it comes to Ray-Ray McCloud, I imagine that the vast majority of people reading this will come with the understanding that when we discuss him, we’re not primarily talking about a wide receiver, but rather a return specialist.
McCloud actually played slightly more snaps on offense than on special teams last season for the Steelers, after originally being brought in during training camp following a journeyman tenure with a couple of other teams in the previous two seasons. But he made the team as a return man.
The receiver returned 23 kickoffs for Pittsburgh last season for a total of 643 yards, averaging 23.1 yards per return. That ranked in the top 10 in the league, but his average trailed off over the course of the season. He averaged 10.3 yards per punt return, which is very strong, on 29 returns for 298 yards. He had multiple returns of 40-plus yards.
Offensively, the Steelers began to incorporate him into a four-receiver set in which he and JuJu Smith-Schuster acted as the slot receivers. He did see 22 targets over the course of the year, catching 20 passes, but for just 77 yards, very much being used similar to Ryan Switzer in recent years, his average depth of target actually being a yard and a half behind the line of scrimmage.
The question with McCloud is if the Steelers can expand his repertoire. He has some speed and shiftiness, and they made use of that on end-arounds as well. He can be a gadget player of some kind. Can new offensive coordinator Matt Canada get creative with him enough to really turn him into some kind of weapon? Can he build on his work in the return game?