“What do you think of Ryan Switzer?” is a question I get asked occasionally. “The heck with him!” is generally my response. “Even as a person?” they often follow up with. “Maybe,” I usually say all unprepared to go there.
Yeah, sure, maybe there are reasons to hate Ryan Switzer, the person. What are they? I can’t think of any at this very moment. He seems like a good dude. He’s a family man. He’s all nice on Twitter and stuff (I just started following him during the making of this article). But you know how it is. You can’t admit you’re wrong about an opinion. That’s especially the case on the various social media platforms, where the strategy employed by many is to just do the rope-a-dope until you wear your opponent out (or they block you).
Back to Switzer, the receiver, and his worthiness of remaining a Pittsburgh Steeler—that’s really the purpose of this article. He’s a guy who’s spent the past offseason being raked over the coals for not being all that good. Why? Because Switzer really wasn’t all that good last year, as he tallied just eight receptions for 29 yards. His YAC (yards after catch), where were they? His ability to be a true play-maker, where was it? His impressions of Julian Edelman and Wes Welker? He really didn't do them all that well.
Sure, Ben Roethlisberger missed all but six quarters of the 2019 regular season, but Switzer came into his third year as a professional averaging just 8.6 yards on 59 career receptions—an average that now stands at an even eight yards per reception after 2019.
It’s no wonder people have spent an entire offseason trying to find reasons to hate Switzer.
The most common thing we point to—besides Switzer’s total lack of anything even remotely resembling production in 2019—is, well, not nepotism, but whatever it is they call it when the franchise quarterback befriends you.
That’s right, Roethlisberger and Switzer are now buds, they’re boys, they hang—don’t tell Antonio Brown this, but Roethlisberger may have even invited Switzer to his house...and during a pandemic. The belief is that the only reason Switzer has stuck around, and will continue to stick around through the current training camp and 2020 regular season, is because Roethlisberger has and will continue to insist upon it.
But what if we’re wrong about Switzer? What if the 2017 fourth-round pick out of North Carolina who spent a season with the Cowboys and a cup of coffee with the Raiders before they traded him to Pittsburgh in 2018 simply needed time to grow, to mature? What if he also needed the backing of an influential quarterback? What if he needed a champion in the form of, well, a two-time Super Bowl-champion, someone who knows a thing or two about what it takes to play receiver in the NFL—and receive passes from a future Hall of Fame quarterback?
Maybe Roethlisberger sees something in the 5’8” receiver that we don’t. Perhaps this belief will motivate Switzer to achieve bigger and better things in the NFL. We already know it has helped motivate him this offseason to (say it with me) get into the best shape of his life. We also know Switzer has looked great during the early stages of Steelers training camp at Heinz Field, where he has already reeled in multiple touchdown passes.
Will Switzer ultimately become a valuable member of the Steelers offense despite the presence of so many more proven and dangerous weapons—including four fellow youngsters in the receiver room?
I don’t think he will. I don’t think the Steelers have room on their roster for a receiver who is five-feet nothing and weighs 100-and-nothing.
And you can quote me on that. Why? Every great underdog story needs its doubters (mainly for the movie clips), and I won’t mind being wrong about Ryan Switzer.