Steelers’ Ryan Switzer the Next Julian Edelman or Wes Welker?


Joe Robbins/Getty Images Ryan Switzer of the Pittsburgh Steelers returns a punt against the Cleveland Browns on September 9, 2018.

Last month Pittsburgh Steelers slot receiver Ryan Switzer was mocked on social media when he asserted that he was well on his way to becoming one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.

“I have no doubt I’ll be up there and I’ll be talked about like Edelman is, like Welker was. Like Jamison Crowder, Cole Beasley,” he said on Instagram Live.

The reaction from most observers was something along the lines of: ‘Yeah, sure, why don’t you just make the opening day roster, first.’

Well, don’t look now but Ryan Switzer has been getting rave reviews for his performance during Steelers training camp, with the reporters who attend practice noticing how much better Switzer looks as compared to years past.

This includes The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly, who said in a recent column that “Switzer is noticeably quicker, and his route-running ability, especially around the goal line, has been crisp.”

Entering training camp most people assumed that Switzer would be battling third-year receiver Deon Cain for the job as the team’s No. 5 receiver. To hear Kaboly tell it, that battle has been no contest.

“Through three practices, it’s not even a debate about who is a better receiver between Switzer and Cain,” he said. “Just by his play this week, Switzer, who is bigger, stronger and faster, but six pounds lighter, has a huge edge on Cain when it comes to a potential fifth and final roster spot at receiver.”

On Wednesday, Switzer converted a 3rd-and-12 with a sideline catch and then caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to cap off a 57-yard drive in which the team ran its two-minute offense.

“I was fortunate enough to be out there with the No. 1s and get those reps, which I never take for granted,” Switzer said afterwards.

Ryan Switzer vs. Julian Edelman vs. Wes Welker: Their First Three Seasons

As for the prospect of Switzer becoming the next Julian Edelman—much less the next Wes Welker—there has been precious little indication that he has the potential to develop into a receiver who has amassed almost 600 receptions and scored 36 touchdowns, as has Edelman during his career with the New England Patriots. Never mind Wes Welker, who had more than 900 receptions and scored 50 touchdowns during his 12-yard NFL career, most of which came with the Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos.

But it’s worth noting that Julian Edelman didn’t become ‘like Edelman’ until his fifth year in the league. If you compare the first three years of their respective careers you notice that Switzer had 50 catches for 321 yards, as compared to Edelman, who had 48 catches for 479 yards. Welker was more productive than either, but his production didn’t escalate until his fourth season in the NFL. During his first three years he caught a total of 96 passes for 1,121 yards.

So perhaps Switzer—who was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2017 draft—will be a late bloomer, too.

Switzer Has the Support of QB Ben Roethlisberger

Certainly he ought to benefit from the return of franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger. Like most of Pittsburgh’s receivers, Switzer struggled when Big Ben was out injured in 2019, catching just eight passes for 27 yards in nine games before he was put on injured reserve with a back injury.

But Roethlisberger has been one of Switzer’s biggest advocates, and Ryan wants to reward his quarterback’s faith.

“I pushed myself really hard this offseason because I believe I can help this team win a championship,” he said during a video conference call with the media. “I’m trying to prove all of the people who believe in me right, No. 7 [Roethlisberger] being one of them.”

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