Don’t be mad, but Ryan Switzer is a roster lock for Steelers

Ryan Switzer Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Ryan Switzer Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

Steelers Nation has grown tired of Ryan Switzer, but no matter how poorly misused he is on the team, he seems primed to make it on the roster again.

Ryan Switzer has become one of the biggest villains in recent Steelers history, and many are hoping he finds his way off the roster. Even after posting about his recent (and impressive) muscle gain, Steelers fans have been quick to write him off as a potential cut. Given the state of the NFL offseason and Switzer’s role on the team, anyone not giving him a roster spot at this point is going to be likely going to be disappointed once the Steelers set their final roster.

Now, first and foremost, Switzer has become way too much of a gadget player for his own good with the Steelers. While primarily a slot WR due to his slight stature, the Steelers almost treat him more as an RB. This isn’t just because he has played in the backfield before (a position he is not meant for), but his routes come almost exclusively behind the line of scrimmage.

While many will simply lump those faults on Switzer, the Steelers set him up for failure by having him run routes at or behind the line of scrimmage and expect all of his yards to come via YAC. While a WR should be able to make some plays from behind the line of scrimmage, expecting them to produce when only catching passes like that is absurd. He has proven before that he can make some plays down the field.

The Steelers have only once put Switzer in a position to succeed

Take his 2018 game against the Broncos where the passes thrown his way averaged at 9.2 yards before the reception (this means the ball traveled on average just over 9 yards before he caught his). He posted a respectable 6 receptions for 67 yards, not amazing numbers, but far from his typical 3-5-yard gains Steelers fans have lamented. The problem was, the Steelers refused to utilize him in such a way again, instead opting for his more typical routes, leading to his disappointing season and lousy 3.2 yards per reception stat line on the year.

While he is far from a great player, the Steelers haven’t done him any favors by keeping his routes so close to the line of scrimmage. That Denver game proved he can and should be more of a receiving threat. Even then, the obvious flaws in his game will limit his ceiling. His lack of YAC ability (something that should be more present in a player that serves primarily as a returner) and struggles beating defenders limit him to being only a backup.

While all of this will still leave fans wanting him off the roster, the fact of the matter is, Switzer is the only true slot WR on this roster. While JuJu Smith-Schuster thrives as the slot WR, it is due to his size and physical play, exploiting mismatches with smaller slot CBs. Behind him, Switzer is the next best option, as the fellow backups have typical body types of outside WRs. If the Steelers want a reserve who can function properly out of the slot, Switzer is likely the best option.

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His slot ability coupled in with the shortened offseason will leave many Steelers fans upset about him making the roster, but the Steelers have done little in finding true competition for him. Worse yet, they seem content using him more like an RB instead of a WR, leading to minor gains and little upside when he does catch the ball. By failing to use him right and failing to bring in the proper competition, Switzer seems poised to make the roster for a third year, and more than likely find a similar amount of success like he has seen in his first two years here.