Now that training camp is over with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Pittsburgh and gearing up for what they hope will be a much more productive season, it’s time to take stock of where the team stands. Specifically, where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of training camp and the preseason and the regular season as it plays out. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning for each one. 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. Because of this, we can and will see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR Gunner Olszewski
Stock Value: Down
Reasoning: Citing a desire to show up and play out against his ‘ex’, his former team, the New England Patriots, fourth-year wide receiver Gunner Olszewski showed up to the reunion with spinach and his teeth and a string of toilet paper tailing behind from the bottom of his shoe.
Gunner Olszewski was an All-Pro return man for Bill Belichick’s Patriots in 2020. Two years later, Belichick wasn’t even willing to offer him a restricted free agent tender. The biggest reason for that was probably about ball security after he fumbled three times in 2021 despite continuing to put up solid return numbers.
Well, he put the ball on the ground once again, this time right in Belichick’s lap. Of course, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place because Cameron Sutton dropped an interception just before that, but Olszewski nevertheless misjudged a punt and allowed the ball to clang right off of his facemask, recovered by the Patriots, who wasted little time getting into the end zone.
For a team constructed with great awareness that its success would be predicated upon minimizing unforced errors, this once was certainly a doozy and unquestionably played a significant role in the Steelers losing. They recovered the ball on the 10-yard line and took just three plays to score a touchdown.
Head coach Mike Tomlin had his player’s back, quickly giving him a play on offense, a jet sweep that was successful in picking up 18 yards, and he continued to return kicks and punts for the remainder of the game—except there were no kicks to return, the remaining being touchbacks or being downed.
Being frank, it will probably take a lot for Olszewski to get benched, but I think after the good preseason that Steven Sims had, it’s not an unrealistic possibility if he muffs a couple more balls. The problem then would become how to manage the wide receiver numbers if and when Calvin Austin III is ready to come off of the Reserve/Injured List.