Switzer Hopes To Add To Steelers Return Game

New Steeler Ryan Switzer diving right into special teams

Shelby Cassesse
August 28, 2018 - 2:41 pm

© Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH (93.7 The Fan) - As soon as Ryan Switzer found out he was traded to Pittsburgh from Oakland, he booked a red eye flight and arrived at 6:30 Tuesday morning in time for practice that afternoon. 

Though Switzer just completed his first year in the NFL with Dallas, he's already been traded twice. Listed as a wide receiver, he was used mostly in the return game by Dallas, who drafted Switzer in the fourth round in 2017. He led the team in punt and kickoff returns, averaging 8.8 yards per punt return with one punt returned for a touchdown. Switzer was traded to Oakland in April, and then to Pittsburgh Monday afternoon. 

"No one expects to get traded twice within their first year in the NFL," Switzer said Tuesday afternoon before his first practice as a Steeler. "I've had kind of an unconventional path being drafted and then being traded twice, but ultimately I'm here for a reason. I believe that, and I'm one step closer to finding the place where I fit in and the place where they're going to value me and where I can be myself, so I'm looking forward to that."

The Charleston, W.Va native and University of North Carolina product is quite familiar with Heinz Field. Aside from attending Steeler games as a kid, Switzer led the Tar Heels in receiving against Pitt in 2015, catching five passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.

"I really really really enjoyed playing at Heinz Field," Switzer said with a grin. "I grew up going to some games there as a kid, and I think the good karma just kind of followed me in college, so hopefully it sticks with me." 

His success at Heinz Field is a sample size of an impressive career at UNC where Switzer caught 243 passes for 2,903 yards and 19 touchdowns. He set a single-season record his senior year with 96 catches for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns, making him the school's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. He also returned seven punts for touchdowns.

Switzer is hoping Pittsburgh will give him the opportunity to make as big of an impact as he did in college.

"I've got a little bit of experience in the year that I've played. Obviously, I was in a great system with [Cowboys special teams] Coach [Rich] Bisaccia and I know Coach [Danny] Smith does it right over here. Hopefully I can get back to what I was doing in college and things that make me the player that I am. Looking forward to doing that over here."

Switzer's first and only preseason opportunity with Pittsburgh will be Thursday against Carolina. Though he's working to get a handle on the playbook to get some time at wide receiver, he's ready to instantly try his hand as the Steelers return man.  

"I know the return game is going to be something that I can pick up quicker. Obviously, I'm going to dive into the offensive playbook and try to find my niche there, but I know that obviously, you can throw someone back there on the returns sooner than you can offensively, so that's what I'm kind of focusing on right now."

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin expects to have Switzer ready for the final preseason game against Carolina.

"It's our intentions to get him on the field on Thursday," he said. "We'll let the dominoes fall and see how this week goes, but our intentions are to play him on Thursday, but we'll wait and see what these two practices look like. The guy's getting off a red eye, etc., so let's see how it goes."

Switzer will wear No. 18 for the Steelers.