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Who will be the Steelers’ return man in 2018?

The Steelers haven’t had a consistent kick returner in a long, long time. Every year, there sees to be a new rotation of special-teamers, backups, and return specialists trying to make an actual impact in the return game. But it never seems to work out. Antonio Brown was a success story in the return game, but has moved on to bigger and better things. Now, the injury risk seems to be too high to put him on the field for returns consistently. Other than him, failures including Dri Archer, Jacoby Jones, Fitzgerald Toussaint, and Terrell Watson have been commonplace. Eli Rogers, who had just begun to show some potential in the return game, had suffered an injury and may take time to fully recover. JuJu Smith-Schuster could be a solid option, but injuries are still a concern for the teams No. 2 receiver, and he won’t be much help returning punts.

Other options currently on the roster:

Quadree Henderson – Henderson is the most obvious option. He was a return specialist at Pitt and he can do the same thing for the Steelers. As a UDFA, though, Henderson still has to make the roster. He needs to show not only that he can return well, but also that he can be solid depth at the WR position. The coaches may prefer other options, though, as Henderson needs to offer more in the passing game.

James Washington – Washington is an intriguing option. He did not return much in college, but he seems to have all the tools to do so. He has solid speed, elusiveness, and the right body size for the position. The coaches may have to give him more time than other options, as his lack of experience at the position puts him behind.

Cameron Sutton – Sutton is another interesting option. He returned well at Tennesse, but the Steelers have given him no in-game reps at the position. With an increased role expected in 2018, the coaches may opt to keep him healthy, especially after a banged-up first year. At the same time, a crowded CB room may pushes coaches to put Sutton on the field at returner, simply to give him more playing time. He would likely specialize at returning punts.

 

In Conclusion: In 2018, I expected to see another revolving door of returners, unless someone really stands out. Quandree Henderson and Eli Rogers seem to be mutually exclusive to make the roster, as they play very similar roles. At kick returner, I expect to see mostly JuJu Smith-Schuster, though Henderson/Rogers, and Washington could see a solid amount of time. I don’t expect Fitzgerald Toussaint to make the final roster. On punt return, Cameron Sutton and Henderson/Rogers will take the majority of the reps, though Antonio Brown could step in occasionally. Possible surprises at the position include Malike Golden, Marcus Tucker, Jaylen Samuels, Jarvion Franklin, and Jamar Summers.

 

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