Buy Or Sell: Gunner Olszewski Will Resume Return Duties In 2023

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 look to 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: Gunner Olszewski will resume return duties in 2023.

Explanation: The Steelers signed Olszewski, a 2020 All-Pro return man, from the New England Patriots after losing Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency. Now having lost Steven Sims, he is the most credible option on the roster.


Here’s the thing with Gunner Olszewski as the return man for the Steelers: he wasn’t preceded or succeeded by better options. He was ostensibly benched over ball security issues, but both Ray-Ray McCloud before him and Steven Sims after him showed the exact same concerns, at similar levels as well, if not worse.

Olszewski wouldn’t have made an All-Pro team if he wasn’t good at what he does, at least when he fields the ball cleanly and holds onto it. He has maneuverability in open space and knows how to find it and how to work his blockers. He averaged 14.2 yards per punt return and 23.2 yards per kick return during the 2020-21 seasons in New England.

And the simple fact of the matter is that the Steelers don’t have any other options, at least none that have any greater credibility. Who are they going to put out there? Anthony McFarland Jr.? He might not even make the roster. Calvin Austin III? He’s never even been in an NFL stadium as a player.


It’s mid-April. The draft hasn’t happened yet. We don’t know what the Steelers’ options at return man will be by the time they open training camp. If it’s something that they value enough, then they will add to the position. It wouldn’t be the first time they use a draft pick on a player primarily because they like his ability as a return man.

And Olszewski just as well may not be on the roster when the time comes. He was signed to be a returner and he got benched within a matter of just a few games, without ever earning his job back. While his cap hit is far from exorbitant, if he’s not returning kicks then he doesn’t offer much to the team, so he doesn’t need to be here.

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