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What the acquisition of Ryan Switzer means to the Steelers 53-man roster

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The Pittsburgh Steelers went out and made a trade for a return man and slot receiver, and it will really impact the team’s upcoming decisions regarding the 53-man roster.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

During the past few years, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been following a similar formula when it comes to handling their roster as the cut-down from 90 to 53 nears. They’re willing to make a trade for a player if they feel he can be a difference maker.

Has it always worked?

Some would argue Joe Haden did enough, but few would say the same about Vance McDonald, J.J. Wilcox or even Brandon Boykin from several years ago — which begs the question of whether newly acquired wide receiver and return man Ryan Switzer will break the mold.

Time will certainly tell whether Switzer will be able to complete the Steelers’ offense and special-teams units, but his skill set as a slot receiver and return man for both punts and kickoffs has a ripple effect on the team’s decision-making when it comes to their 53-man roster.

To make room on the 90-man roster for Switzer, the team released wide receiver Justin Thomas, but let’s look at the depth chart heading into Thursday’s presason finale:

Depth Chart/Roster:

Antonio Brown
JuJu Smith-Schuster
James Washington
Justin Hunter
Darrius Heyward-Bey
Trey Griffey
Tevin Jones
Damoun Patterson
Quadree Henderson
Markus Tucker
Eli Rogers

As sad as it might sound to some, the addition of Switzer likely means the end of the road for the following players:

Trey Griffey
Tevin Jones
Quadree Henderson
Markus Tucker (injured)
Eli Rogers (injured/suspended)

Of those left on the depth chart, the following could be viewed as locks to make the team:

Antonio Brown
James Washington
JuJu Smith-Schuster
Ryan Switzer
Darrius Heyward-Bey

If the Steelers keep six wide receivers — which I think they will — it’s now a battle for the final roster spot. That battle will be between:

Damoun Patterson
Justin Hunter
and MAYBE Markus Tucker if he‘s healthy.

Switzer’s skill set both as a return man — a position the Steelers desperately need help with — and a slot receiver, makes their offense and special teams very complete. The only issue now is Switzer and Ben Roethlisberger getting synced-up before the Week-1 game against the Cleveland Browns, but I doubt Switzer sees the field very much, outside of perhaps a few packages early in the season, at least until he gets his feet wet.

While some might suggest this could impact Fitzgerald Toussaint’s role with the team, considering Toussaint was the lone return man in Week 3 vs. the Tennessee Titans, I believe Toussaint has solidified his spot in the backfield along with Le’Veon Bell, James Conner and, most likely, Jaylen Samuels.

Fans might be disappointed to see players like Tucker or Hunter jettisoned for Switzer, but they should also realize the player the Steelers are getting can help them win games. Whether it’s only having solid hands in the return game or providing an occasional spark as a receiver, that’s likely to be an upgrade all around.