Pittsburgh Steelers Kevin Colbert struck gold again with Ray-Ray McCloud

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (14)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud (14) /

Kevin Colbert made a typical Pittsburgh Steelers move on August 21st, 2020.

The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t known for making a lot of flashy signings or trades for big-name players. They prefer the ‘build your roster through the draft’ approach while utilizing free agency and some under the radar trades to fill out the rest of the roster. Probably my favorite free agent signing from this offseason was that of Ray-Ray McCloud’s.

McCloud was signed by Pittsburgh almost a full month after the Buffalo Bills released him in July. The Bills have Andre Roberts who is an excellent kick returning specialist. After picking up Stefon Diggs in the offseason they had to release somebody from that group, and with a more established return specialist in Roberts, McCloud was the odd man out.

As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is holding true and then some. When I first heard about the deal I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of signing yet another receiver. Even with hearing about McCloud’s abilities as a return specialist I was convinced Diontae Johnson would fill that role. I was wrong and McCloud, thanks in part to Johnson’s injuries, has entrenched himself as the top return specialist in the steel city.

He has not only earned the top spot as a specialist he is well on the way to being one of the best return specialists in franchise history. Of all players with at least 7 punt returns, he has the highest average return with 18.1 yards per punt return. Furthermore, Billy Wells and Lynn Chandnois are the only players with at least 10 kick returns that averaged higher than his 26.3 yards per return. If you don’t know who those players are, it is because Billy Wells only played for the Steelers in one season in 1957 and Lynn Chandnois played for Pittsburgh from 1950-1956. Ray-Ray McCloud has already made himself the best kick returner in the last 63 years for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I don’t expect him to slow down much at this rate.

What makes this an even sweeter deal, is that the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have to rely on any of their other playmakers to grant them good field position. They use to have to rely on guys like Antonio Brown, Diontae Johnson, and even JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has hauled in 9 kick returns early in his career.

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It is nice when you are able to keep some of your best offensive threats fresher throughout a game. It also helps lower the chance of injury, although I am not convinced anyone on this roster aside from Johnson would have much of a shot at being a better kick returner after seeing the first 6 games of the season than Ray-Ray McCloud.