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Steelers Film Room: Ryan Switzer’s return ability was on display in Week 1

The Pittsburgh Steelers might have finally found their return man in Ryan Switzer.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Ryan Switzer had to call a moving company for the second time in less than four months due to being traded twice during the offseason. The former North Carolina Tarheel was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 and then traded to the Oakland Raiders this past April. Switzer didn’t last long on the Raiders’ roster as he was traded on August 27 to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The trade was a 2019 fifth-rounder from Pittsburgh in exchange for Switzer and a 2019 sixth-rounder. In a perfect scenario, the Steelers would pick No. 32 and the Raiders No. 1 in the sixth round.

The Steelers have used a smattering of players on both kick and punt returns the past few years, with limited success. The knee-jerk reaction after one game — the solution is Switzer.

Steelers fans have been clamoring for the team to relieve wideout Antonio Brown from his punt-return duties. Brown, a once talented punt returner, has seen his productivity decline. (I opined about this two years ago.) During this past preseason, Pittsburgh tried out two camp bodies along with cornerback Cameron Sutton in hopes one of them would take the job and flourish. Sutton’s shot at punt-return duties ended against the Tennessee Titans when he fumbled a return. None of the camp bodies shined. The Steelers’ 2017 primary punt returner, Eli Rogers (PUP list) is still recovering from a torn ACL and is unavailable — forcing the Steelers to look elsewhere.

Over the past two seasons, the Black-and-gold used seven different kick returners — only JuJu Smith-Schuster remains on the roster. While JuJu was effective in 2017 (26.7 YPR), the Steelers seem to prefer keeping him strictly on offense and handing the kick-return duties to another player. Steelers fans hope that this never-ending carousel ends with Switzer.

Video evidence shows that Switzer just might be the remedy the Steelers have been searching for.

Switzer’s first punt return had Steelers fans on their feet cheering with a 22-yard effort.

The third punt he returned was only for four yards but, due to his eagerness and not letting the ball bounce — this ensured the Steelers better field position.

This punt shows Switzer flipping field position with the Browns. Britton Colquitt boots a punt 45 yards but Switzer returns it for 20 to the Cleveland 39.

Was it the rush against Colquitt or the presence of Switzer that led to a brutal 29-yard shank deep into overtime?

Two of his kickoff returns show his elusiveness but also his field vision where others failed.

Switzer’s 4.51 speed won’t exactly blow the doors off of opponents. But pairing that with his vision and sure-handedness — the Steelers have the makings of the returner they’ve been searching for. So far in this young season, Switzer is seventh in punt return average (11.2 yards) and tenth in kickoffs average (23 yards). Will Switzer be able to maintain or build on those numbers? Steelers Nation remains cautiously optimistic.