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: The Steelers will have yet another different return man in 2021.
Explanation: As anybody who’s followed the team for a while probably knows, the Steelers have had a revolving door at return man for basically the past 15 years, particularly at kick returner. Ray-Ray McCloud was their return man last year, and he’s back, but he isn’t being guaranteed anything.
McCloud started out the season well, but his returns grew more and more pedestrian as the season progressed, so one has to think that teams began to adjust to him over the course of the season. The fact that the Steelers re-signed JuJu Smith-Schuster also definitely doesn’t help him keep his roster spot.
That’s because the team is looking at a number of different players in the upcoming draft who have strong backgrounds as return men, and it’s more than a little bit reasonable to assume that they might draft one of them. One year they’re bound to pan out, right?
We also count rule out the possibility of Diontae Johnson at least returning to the punt return role, which he held at the beginning of last season before he was injured. I wouldn’t call this the most likely scenario, but it could depend on how the final 53-man roster shapes up.
There’s no reason to assume that McCloud is going anywhere. Even if they add another wide receiver, they have room for another. They only carried five wide receivers on the 53-man roster a year ago when in recent years they have typically carried six, so even if every receiver from last year returns, they can accommodate a new draft pick, whether he is a returner or not.
The reality is that McCloud was one of the more successful returners the Steelers have had in a long time. He also came in during the late stages of training camp and made enough of an impact that they carried him on the roster. With an actual offseason, he could be an even more effective returner for the Steelers.