Football is a game.
It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be enjoyable and entertaining.
And for Ryan Switzer, last year that was finally the case.
Switzer was acquired by the Steelers via a trade with the Oakland Raiders at the end of the preseason last year, and went from the lowest point of his career to the most fun he has ever had playing the game.
“I know it’s weird saying it was that much fun because we went 9-6-1 and we missed the playoffs. But honestly it was one of the most enjoyable times I had,” said Switzer. “It was because of our receivers room, guys like Coach (Darryl) Drake, Coach Randy (Fichtner), Danny Smith. It was a joy to come to work. It was a joy to be here. It wasn’t one of those things where you wake up in the morning and are dragging out of bed. It is a joy to be here. It makes me happy and excited for next year.”
Switzer, who when he arrived the initial thought from many was he was being brought in a return specialist, quickly proved that theory wrong as he got more and more involved with the offense.
Prior to arriving in Pittsburgh he had six career receptions for 41 yards. Switzer finished the 2018 season with 36 receptions for 253 yards and a touchdown.
“I didn’t surprise myself, but I am sure I surprised others,” said Switzer. “There was a stigma that was created before I got here that I was just a return guy. It was hard for me because I spent four years in college doing so many things on the offensive side of the ball. A new environment can be good for everybody. To be around an organization that believed in me, a coaching staff that believed in me, and players that believed in me. That was the biggest thing. They allowed me to spread my wings, be who I am.
“I always knew how to play the receiver position. I think that got lost last year because of a stigma that was they put on me elsewhere as being just a return specialist guy. The Steelers who evaluated me coming out of the draft, they knew the production I had in college. For them to trust that, even though I wasn’t used like that in Dallas, meant a lot. The first week I was here Coach (Mike) Tomlin made sure I knew that I wasn’t just here to be a return guy. Throughout the year I grew because of the guys that were around me, the guys I was able to watch. Then I grew because of Ben (Roethlisberger). He took time with me individually to make sure I was on the same page with him. He took the time to make sure we knew about each other, learned about other, made sure I knew what he wanted and he knew how I saw things.”
That relationship with Roethlisberger, one which had Switzer thanking him at the end of the season, led to a lot of the success the second-year receiver had, talking to him whether it was in practice, meetings, or off the field.
“If he wasn’t practicing he would be looking to make sure we are on the same page,” said Switzer. “He reached out a bunch. He didn’t know me from anything. My wife got into a car accident on a Friday and the first person that reached out was Ben. It meant a lot. He was one guy on this team I felt bad when I didn’t get the job done. I didn’t want to let him down because I knew he trusted me and was expecting me to come through for him.
“It took time to earn that trust. You have to earn trust. You do that through experience. You do that through proving people right. Whether that’s proving Ben right when he throws you the ball and you are where you are supposed to be. Whether it’s proving the coaching staff right when they put you out there and they expect you to get the job done. It means for the majority of the season I did my job and I did what I was called to do.”
This offseason is going to be a huge one for Switzer. After arriving at the last minute at the start of last season, he will have an entire offseason to work with his teammates and be a part of a key bonding time.
“On the field I was able to be who I am,” said Switzer. “I believe I am just scratching the surface with this team, with Ben. I see a bright future for myself and this team. I am looking forward to it. I was happy with what I did last year, but I will be looking to expand on that. It’s going to be huge having OTAs, training camp, being around the guys. Being around someone five or six months, you don’t fully know them. The more they get to know me, I am hoping the more they see everything I can do and the more value they see I can be to this team.”