2023 Stock Watch – WR/RS Jordan Byrd – Purchased

With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 season over, the team finishing above .500 but failing to make the postseason, we have turned our attention to the offseason. One thing that it means is that some stock evaluations are going to start taking on broader contexts, reflecting on a player’s development, either positively or negatively, over the course of the season. Other evaluations will reflect only one immediate event or trend. The nature of the evaluation, whether short-term or long-term, will be noted in the reasoning section below.

Player: WR/RS Jordan Byrd

Stock Value: Purchased

Reasoning: Jordan Byrd out of San Diego State was one of seven rookies to sign as college free agents following the 2023 NFL Draft. The Steelers list him as a wide receiver and a return specialist, and the latter is the reason we’re going to be discussing him right now, in an offseason in which Pittsburgh lost its primary return specialist from last season, Steven Sims.

I don’t think there is any doubt that the Steelers wanted to find themselves a candidate to be a return specialist this year. While that probably was not going to come through the draft, given their relatively limited resources on the back end of things, they did manage to find a candidate among the college free agents.

One thing worth noting about Byrd off the bat is that he was primarily a running back in college, recording 275 carries against 47 receptions over a five-year career in the Mountain West Conference. He only topped 100 touches in a single season — as a senior in 2022.

But he was a pretty prolific return man, recording 88 kick returns and 67 punt returns. He averaged nearly 25 yards per kick return and scored three touchdowns off kick returns, along with one off of punt returns, so he has the home run ball in his repertoire.

This is a guy who isn’t likely to offer much on offense except as a gadget player, if anything, so if he is going to make the Steelers’ roster, it is going to be as the return man. And his primary competition figures to be Gunner Olszewski, a former All-Pro returner who lost his job in Pittsburgh within the first weeks of last season.

But the man who took over for him, Steven Sims, left in free agency, so there is no incumbent. That means the door is open for a guy like Byrd to get noticed. I’m going to bet that the Steelers will give him a long look, and the more opportunities he earns, the more he’ll be fed them.

At 5’7”, 166 pounds, though, he very much plays to his size both in terms of the positives and the negatives. Though without the same kind of speed, he has some similarities to Dri Archer, who could hardly break a tackle to save his life and would go down on contact readily but who could create openings otherwise. But Byrd has a broader skill set that is less reliant upon one-cut-and-go speed.

I will say this about Byrd and the Steelers’ undrafted free agent class in general. At least a handful of them should be pretty interesting to watch this summer, even if none of them make it.

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