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: In a somewhat surprising development, JuJu Smith-Schuster told reporters yesterday that he considers Ray-Ray McCloud the second-best slot receiver on the team behind himself, an endorsement he coupled with his desire to see fewer snaps out of the slot and more on the outside.
The Steelers were able to return all five of their wide receivers from last year’s 53-man roster into this year. It is presumed that all five of them will safely make the 53-man roster again. The team failed to draft any at the position, nor sign any notable free agents.
Ray-Ray McCloud was the last addition, a two-year veteran Pittsburgh signed during training camp last year. He primarily made the team, however, as the return man, beating out Ryan Switzer. The Cleveland Browns later added Switzer to their practice squad.
While his role primarily remained that of a return man (and expanded from just kickoffs to also punts as the season progressed), McCloud did see some time on offense, especially when in their five-wide no-huddle offense. He did catch a handful of passes, but they were almost exclusively of the short variety. McCloud averaged just 3.9 yards per reception with an average depth of target behind the line of scrimmage.
Is there something to what JuJu Smith-Schuster said, however? Could we see McCloud in a bigger role this year, now with a full offseason to work within the offense? Can Matt Canada install some creative concepts to exploit his strengths?
Smith-Schuster saying that McCloud is the second-best slot receiver on the team in and of itself is not going to get him more playing time. I feel it is still significant and worth documenting here. It is perhaps at least an insight into how peers might view him, whether or not it ultimately manifests on the field.