One of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ most intriguing undrafted free agent signings was San Diego State do-it-all running back Jordan Byrd. With three career kick-return touchdowns, Byrd, who ran for 390 yards last season at SDSU, is primarily going to be looked at as a return specialist. The New Mexico native, who starred as a quarterback at Manzano High School, talked to Van Tate of KRQE Sports a few days ago about his path to the NFL and what he thinks he’ll provide to a team.
Pre-draft, Byrd said, the Steelers were one of three teams he heard from the most, along with the Rams and Chargers. He said he’s got a chip on his shoulder from people not believing in him, and that it comes out on the field.
“I try to,” Byrd told Tate when asked if he’s still got the chip on his shoulder. “Especially on the field, I’m more cocky on the field than I am off the field.”
Byrd was also a former high school track star, so it’s no surprise that his standout trait is his speed, and he believes his speed is something that can set him apart in the NFL.
“I mean speed, you see Tyreek Hill and all those guys that are small but fast. It’s hard to keep up with those guys, and I feel like I could do that in the NFL as well,” Byrd said. “My speed, it does affect the field.”
While Byrd, who’s listed at 5’9 and 170 pounds, signed with the Steelers after spending his career at SDSU as a running back, he’s willing to play anywhere in the NFL. He said the Chiefs talked to him pre-draft about his quarterback background.
“Playing running back, playing kick return, punt return, it doesn’t matter where I play, I’ll just have fun out there,” Byrd said.
He didn’t return kicks until he got to college, but he was a three-time first-team All-Mountain West returner and finished his collegiate career with 2,020 kick return yards for an average of 24.9 yards per return. He also returned 67 punts for 445 yards and a touchdown. He returned three kicks for a touchdown, as well. He also showed off his strength at his Pro Day when he benched 16 reps of 225 pounds.
The Steelers have a clear hole at their return spot. Last year, Gunner Olszewski opened the season as the primary returner but a few too many costly fumbles cost him his job. Steven Sims took over after that for the rest of the season, but he left in free agency to sign with the Houston Texans, leaving the Steelers with limited options outside of Olszewski.
Byrd will obviously compete for that job, but his speed and versatility could make him an intriguing offensive weapon, particularly with how many jet sweeps the Steelers run in Matt Canada’s offense. If Byrd is able to stick and make the 53-man roster, he could have a role beyond just special teams.
Even if his offensive numbers don’t pop off the page, it’s never a bad thing bringing a guy in with game-breaking speed. If Byrd’s able to impress on special teams, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him make the roster and potentially have a gadget play or two called for him throughout the year. With his intriguing skill set, he’s going to be someone to watch when rookie minicamp kicks off on May 12.