The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.
This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others—some already decided, some not.
Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor was re-signed, but Trai Turner was not. James Daniels and Mason Cole were added in free agency.
These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.
Question: What are the chances of anybody not named Gunner Olszewski winning any returner jobs this year?
The Steelers more or less signed Gunner Olszewski as a free agent because of his history as a return man in the NFL, having made the All-Pro team in 2020. He was brought in after they lost their return man for the past two seasons, Ray-Ray McCloud, who found a better offer and likely a better role with the San Francisco 49ers.
Olszewski, though, is also a wide receiver, or so he claims, so he could still do that even if he is not both the punt and kick returner. Here’s the thing, though: there are multiple players who are already on record as saying that they are gunning for that job.
One of them is third-year running back Anthony McFarland, who understands that his grace period is running out and he needs to find a way to make himself indispensable, or at least useful, to some coach on the staff.
The other is rookie fourth-round wide receiver Calvin Austin III, who has return experience and also wants to be able to do it at this level. Austin is probably, at best, going to be the number four receiver, so it’s not like it would be asking too much of him to handle the return duties, or at least part of the duties, in 2022.