It’s the annual question. Who will pretend to be Lamar Jackson for a week? With Josh Dobbs on season-ending IR and the other Steelers’ QBs possessing the agility of your typical shuffleboard player, wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud is serving as scout-team quarterback during practice this week. Chris Wormley not only confirmed the news speaking to reporters Wednesday, but was impressed by McCloud’s ability to emulate Jackson.
“It was good,” Wormley said of McCloud’s performance in audio provided by the team. “I don’t know if you guys saw. He kind of scrambled, went through some of the guys that weren’t even in, and then threw a bomb. So I was surprised at his arm talent but it looked good. It’s given us a good look.”
McCloud’s running skills are well-known. A smaller, shifty player, he earned his keep on the Steelers’ roster as the team’s starting kick and punt returner for the past two seasons, bringing the kick return game out of the basement for the first time in years. In fact, it was a kick return touchdown during 2020 training camp that seemed to cement his spot onto the 53.
McCloud’s arm was an obvious unknown, but evidently, pretty good. He’s never thrown a pass in the NFL or even in college at Clemson. A star running back in high school, his MaxPreps bio does show he attempted a handful of passes on Friday nights, going 6/11 for 72 yards and two touchdowns as a senior at Sickles High School in Tampa, Florida. By the way, his rushing stats were pretty remarkable, running for over 2,300 yards as a junior while averaging over seven yards per carry his final two seasons there.
Wormley joked McCloud offered a better look than the other Steelers’ quarterbacks.
“A little better [look] than Mason or Dwayne is giving us this week. As far as the athletic, run-around, feel of it.”
Jackson’s unique skillset forces any upcoming opponent to be able to showcase that look in practice. That’s the role of scout team. To present the plays the defense expects to be facing come gameday. In the past, the team used Dobbs or signed a quarterback – in 2019 it was Taryn Christion – for the week. But with injuries piling up and the team evidently unwilling to sign a fourth QB (who then would have to clear COVID protocol hurdles), the team is turning to McCloud.
Of course, seeing the look in practice by a receiver masquerading as a quarterback and stopping the real deal are two totally different things. To Pittsburgh’s credit, they have as good a track record against Jackson as any team. But their defense feels a shell of itself compared to the last two years, and will likely be without T.J. Watt this weekend.