After the first wave of free agency, Steeler fans saw the team’s wide receiver depth take some serious damage, losing the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud, who was known more for his skills in the return game. The team arguably made an upgrade over him though with the acquisition of ex-Patriot Gunner Olszewski.
While Pittsburgh doesn’t offer the lush tropical climates of a Florida team like the Dolphins, or the financial rewards of no state income taxes like the Cowboys, what it does offer is a chance to play for a first class organization and one that is often referred to as the gold standard of stability in the league. Recently, Olszewski sat down with Steelers team reporter Missi Matthews on the Steelers YouTube channel to discuss some of the key elements in him choosing the Steel City over a return to Foxborough.
“Bill had spoken to me and kind of told me what his plans were,” Olszewski told Matthews, referencing his former head coach Bill Belichick. “So I kind of had an idea that I wasn’t going to get tendered. And then from there on, it was just kind of free range when I became a free agent and we were talking to some teams and I was pumped when Pittsburgh called.”
A former undrafted free agent cornerback out of tiny Division II Bemidji State University in Minnesota, he made the Pats’ roster in 2019 making his hay in the return game, where he was a standout. A first team All-Pro in 2020, he led the league with 346 punt return yards and a sterling 17.3 average, both a franchise record and also the second-highest total since the AFL-NFL merger.
A free agent for the first time, Olszewski could’ve played the match-making game and let the process drag out, similar to how former Steeler Terrell Edmunds is doing. However, he jumped at the chance to sign the 2-year deal Pittsburgh offered him, as well as being able to play for a storied franchise with a culture and tradition that is second to none.
“The opportunity of a two-year contract, really,” he told Matthews. “Just showing that a team really believes in me and they want to have me in for two years, at least, and then maybe something more after that. And then being able to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers organization was a big plus too. I know they are first rate in everything they do, so that was exciting.”