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2021 Offseason Questions: Could McCloud Really See Bigger Role In Offense?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: Could Ray-Ray McCloud really see more time on offense if, as JuJu Smith-Schuster recently suggested, he’s the team’s second-best slot option?

JuJu Smith-Schuster has been vocal throughout the offseason about his intention to play more snaps on the outside. In order to achieve that, the team would either have to run a lot more 12 personnel, or involve different wide receivers into the rotation in the slot.

When he was recently asked who could play in the slot if he is playing more outside, Smith-Schuster volunteered the name of Ray-Ray McCloud, a young veteran receiver who only joined the team during the middle of training camp last year.

McCloud managed to make the 53-man roster, but served primarily as the Steelers’ return man. He did get worked into the offense some as the season progressed when they used an 01 personnel package, as one of two slot receivers.

Given that, I suppose we can’t completely rule out the idea of him seeing more time on offense, but if it comes in their base 11 personnel package, then it would have to mean that either Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool are not on the field, and that really doesn’t seem like something the coaching staff would want to do.

In McCloud’s favor is the fact that he will now have a full offseason with the team, rather than just weeks before the regular season starts, so he will actually have time to learn the offense, and even for the coaching staff to plan things for him.

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