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 the fifth consecutive season in which they failed to win a postseason game—a new record for the franchise since the merger. Yet again, they find themselves undergoing the exit meeting process earlier than anticipated, which means so are we.
The Steelers did arguably perform at or above expectations this year by going 9-7-1 and making the postseason at all, a reflection of just how much talent they lost during the offseason, from the majority of the offensive line to Mike Hilton, Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Vince Williams—not to mention Stephon Tuitt, essentially.
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 2021 season.
Player: Ray-Ray McCloud
Experience: 4 Years
The 2021 season was a bit of an up-and-down year for Ray-Ray McCloud, his second with the Steelers. While he continued to solidify his role as return man and took on a bigger role on offense following JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury, his impact remained somewhat muted, and most concerning, he reminded everybody about how concerning his issues with ball security can be.
McCloud has fumbled at least twice in every season in which he’s played thus far, even though he has 72 total offensive touches. He has 72 career kick returns and 81 career punt returns, bringing his total touches up to 225.
But he has fumbled 11 times on those 225 touches, nearly once every 20 touches, which is extremely bad. During the 2021 season, he fumbled a career-high four times on 114 touches, which isn’t quite as bad a percentage, but still rather bad.
The most important job for a return man is to secure possession of the football. If he has another year like he did in 2021 in terms of giving the coaches reason to doubt whether or not he can consistently accomplish that task, they could easily begin to seek alternative options.
To his credit, outside of ball security, he has been pretty consistent as a return man—not overly flashy, but generally giving the team respectable field position, with the occasional burst here and there. Offensively, he has grown as well, and has shown indications of learning nuance in his route-running.
Still, he is looking at being a depth player, at best, his role last season only being accounted for due to injury. The Steelers won’t be re-signing him and plugging him into the slot and expecting him to play 800 snaps on offense. Which is fine. They don’t need him to do that. But they do need him to secure the ball.