Steelers Receiver to ‘Get a Shot’ at Replacing Gunner Olszewski

Steelers' Gunner Olszewski

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Gunner Olszewski of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs the ball against the New England Patriots on September 18, 2022.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers signed All-Pro kick returner Gunner Olszewski to a two-year, $4.2 million contract in March 2022, it seemed as if the team had secured an upgrade over Ray-Ray McCloud, who signed with the San Francisco 49ers in free agency after Pittsburgh’s “attempted keep” failed.

It hasn’t worked out that way. In four games, Olszewski returned five punts for 36 yards, for a career-low 7.2 yards per return. His kickoff return numbers were even worse, with two returns totaling 19 yards, as per Pro Football Reference. But the inescapable problem is that Olszewski also fumbled twice, and his muffed punt in Week 2 was the turning point in a 17-14 home loss to the Patriots.

Mike Tomlin: ‘Two (Fumbles) is a Pattern’

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin hinted that Olszewski might be replaced in the lineup during his press conference on Tuesday. Asked about his level of confidence in Olszewski, he replied:

“Not very high to be quite honest with you. You can’t put two balls on the ground in four games and feel good about it. Two is a pattern in the National Football League. We say that often. We say that about runners and ball security. Whether it’s four games, or eight games, or 12 games. Two in our business is a pattern.”

That said, Tomlin has since made a change at kick returner, with wide receiver Steven Sims poised to get elevated from the practice squad for Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.

Steven Sims: ‘I’m Going to Get a Shot’

“I’m going to get a shot at it this week, so I’m excited about that,” Sims told Teresa Varley of on Wednesday. “Can’t wait to see what happens. … It’s been a little while but I’m excited though.”

The fourth-year receiver went on to say he feels like he’s been ready for the opportunity all along.

“I feel like I have been ready. I have been working every day. Taking my reps. Just been doing what I can and let everything else play out how it’s supposed to,” he added.

Moreover, Sims said he could see himself getting some snaps on offense as well, much like Olszewski did.

“I could see myself in that same role,” Sims said. “Whatever coach asks me to do or needs me to do, I’ll be ready. We’ll see. I don’t know exactly what we’re going to have up for this week but I know I’ll be doing jet sweeps and things like that.”

Sims Has 65 Career Kick Returns

Despite the fact that Sims has been inactive for all four games this season, he has considerable experience as both a receiver and kick returner, most of which came with Washington in 2019-20.

The 25-year-old has appeared in 29 career games, and has returned a total of 35 kickoffs for 861 yards and a touchdown, an average of 24.6 yards per return. He also has 30 career punt returns for 186 yards.

As a receiver he has contributed 61 receptions for 575 yards and five touchdowns, plus 10 rushes for 103 yards and a TD.

For what it’s worth, Sims did make an impression during the preseason, when he authored a 38-yard punt return during Pittsburgh’s preseason opener against the Seahawks.