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Steelers’ Failed Gunner Olszewski Experiment Should Be Over; Team Needs To Move On From Him In 2022

Jordan Schofield / SteelerNation (Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO)

Steelers’ Failed Gunner Olszewski Experiment Should Be Over; Team Needs To Move On From Him In 2022

The Pittsburgh Steelers have not had a very dynamic punt or kick return game for the majority of the Mike Tomlin era. The organization did something with the hopes of correcting that this off-season when former All-Pro, Gunner Olszewski was brought in and signed to a two-year deal. The signing was originally thought to be a solid one, but the script has flipped since he came to Pittsburgh back in March. The wide receiver has done more harm than good and the Steelers would be doing the franchise a favor if they moved on from him within the next month or so.

Steelers Gunner Olszewski

Steelers wide receiver, Gunner Olszewski (#89) warms up prior to a 2022 preseason game at Acrisure Stadium. | Jordan Schofield / SteelerNation (Twitter: @JSKO_PHOTO)


Steelers Rookie Calvin Austin III Eager For Chance To Return Punts; Could It Jeopardize Gunner Olszewski’s Roster Spot?


Pittsburgh has two potential replacements for Olszewski who have yet to see game action this season. Steven Sims, who flashed big play potential in the preseason has been a healthy scratch each week and rookie wide receiver, Calvin Austin III has been on IR since the beginning of the year. Austin III is eligible to come off the IR as soon as this week, but it will be interesting to see how the organization approaches his injury.

The biggest concern surrounding Olszewski isn’t his 7.2 yards per punt return or the fact that he isn’t even in the top 20 in kick return average. It has been his inability to hold on to the football. He had a fumble in the preseason while on offense and his struggles carried into the regular season on special teams. He muffed a punt against his former team, the New England Patriots, which led to a touchdown and would prove to be the difference at the end of the game in a 17-14 loss.

Olszewski tried making a play on Sunday against the New York Jets and fumbled on a punt return once again. He was lucky that it was recovered by Steelers cornerback, James Pierre. The team already has had a questionable offense and worn down defense early in the season. The last thing that they need is to be giving the ball away to opponents with short fields. It already lost the Steelers one game this year.

Steelers Gunner Olszewski

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Gunner Olszewski (#89) practices at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex during the 2022 minicamp, Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Abigail Dean/Pittsburgh Steelers)

Olszewski is averaging just 9.5 yards per kick return. That is overwhelmingly last in the NFL for any players who have two or more registered. It is really hard to somehow manage almost the same amount of yards per both kick and punt returns, but the newcomer has done that. He had one 20-yard punt return that provided a spark, but other than that, has not been impressive.

Part of his struggles making big plays can be at the fault of special teams coach, Danny Smith and the group surrounding him, but those guys aren’t able to hold onto the ball for him. Steelers fans can expect him to stick around for now, but if Austin III comes off IR, it may be Olszewski, and not Sims, that gets the boot from the 53-man roster. Either of the other two potential returners could put out a more productive and mistake-free effort out on the field.

It is simply not working for Olszewski in Pittsburgh and his signing has hurt the Steelers more so than help the organization. Even former special teams returner, Ray-Ray McCloud is having a better year in his first season with the San Francisco 49ers.

 

Do you think it is already time for the Steelers to part ways with Olszewski? Let us know in the comments below!

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