While the performance of the return units might not be the first thing that comes to mind after watching the Pittsburgh Steelers tie with the Cleveland Browns, it would be fair to say that the debut of Ryan Switzer on Sunday deserves some recognition. After what feels like years of shouting at the TV every time a Steelers’ return man fielded a punt or attempted to bring a kick out of the end zone, watching Switzer play against Cleveland was something of a revelation in Week 1.
Appearing surprisingly assured at his position compared to the players the coaching staff has tried out as kick-returners in past seasons, Switzer showed a range of skills on special teams that highlighted the talents which surely attracted Pittsburgh to him in the first place. He might have dropped the one pass thrown his way, but he did give the Steelers some positive plays in the kicking game.
A stat line of five punt returns for 55 yards at an average of 11 yards per return, along with three kick returns for an average of 23 yards isn’t exactly the second coming of Devin Hester, but it felt like a dramatic improvement over previous candidates for the position.
Displaying great agility and quickness, Switzer made enough moves to suggest he might have the capacity to break off some big returns this season, plus an 8-yard carry out of the backfield which indicates he could have some value there too.
A one-game sample clearly isn’t enough to claim the coaching staff has finally found the man talented enough to keep Antonio Brown on the sidelines when the special-teams unit takes the field, but he didn’t make me want to throw things at the TV either, so I’m personally taking this as a huge win in Week 1.