With the Steelers’ 2023 offseason underway following a disappointing season that came up just short of reaching the playoffs, it’s time to begin reloading, through the free agency process, through the draft, and perhaps even through trade.
This is now a young team on the offensive side of the ball, though one getting older on defense. Both sides could stand to be supplemented robustly, including in the trenches—either one. Changes have been made to the coaching staff, even if not all of the desired ones, as the roster continues to renew with the weeks ticking by.
These sorts of uncertainties are what I will address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
Topic Statement: The Steelers should re-sign Steven Sims to be their return man.
Explanation: After initially sitting behind Gunner Olszewski on the depth chart, Sims was given the chance to become the Steelers’ return man and he finished the season averaging 25.5 yards per kick return and 5.5 yards per punt return.
As it currently stands, Sims is the Steelers’ best option. While Sims was far from free of some ball-security issues, Olszewski knocked himself out of the race early on that front. He was already allowed to walk in 2022 by the New England Patriots despite being an All-Pro returner the year before precisely because of ball-security issues.
Sims is a natural runner in open space, with a bit of that ‘joystick’ quality. He can be explosive, and we did see him pop off an 80-yard return early on. He has the potential to be a more consistent threat if the unit around him supports him. That is easier when those players don’t have to change who they’re blocking for in-season.
Many will want to bring up Calvin Austin III, but he will just be looking to settle into the team after missing his rookie year. His college experience as a returner is limited to punt duty, all of 29 career college returns.
The Steelers should consider bringing Sims back, but not necessarily for the specific purpose of being the return man. He would provide depth at both wide receiver and in the return game, as he did last year. Both he and Olszewski have similar issues, so it would make sense to allow them to compete for the return job.
And yes, you can throw Austin in there as well, and perhaps a rookie if the Steelers land somebody that they feel can do the job. Maybe Danny Smith gets another late-round pick to come in as his top return man. He got Demarcus Ayers years back, though it didn’t quite work out.