HC Broncos Vic Fangio portray Ray-Ray McCloud as dangerous returning man for Steelers
There may be some wondering why the Pittsburgh Steelers still have Ray-Ray McCloud on the 53-man roster, given he doesn’t contribute much to offense as a fifth wide receiver. That wasn’t the reason he made the team in the first place, however; it was for his comeback ability, and he’s been successful in that area this season.
As of this writing, he ranks third in both punt return and kick return distance, averaging 10.8 yards for the first and 26.6 yards for the first. second. That didn’t translate into a good average starting position for Pittsburgh, for reasons beyond their control – they rank 29th in average starting position at their own 25 – but it would be even worse if not. And he was noticed by his opponents.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, for example, praised the fourth-year veteran, speaking to reporters on Wednesday. “He’s a very good punt returner and kickoff returner,” he said, via the transcript. “We have to do a good job of coverage, but part of the coverage is also the kicks, both the punt and the kickoff. We have to get good kicks to start covering and then we have to do a good job of covering ”.
The Steelers first signed McCloud on August 21 of last year, at the end of training camp, but he showed enough in a matter of weeks, without benefiting from the preseason action, to carve out a place in the 53-man roster, as one of the five wide receivers, no less, because of his comeback ability, making the squad more than others like Deon Cain and Ryan Switzer.
Originally a sixth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills, he spent his rookie season there but ended up in Carolina a year later. It’s the first time he’s been on the same squad in several seasons, and it’s no coincidence that it’s also where he performed best, with the latter leading to the former.
His comeback numbers were horrendous as a rookie. They improved slightly in 2018 in Carolina, averaging 8.2 yards per punt return and 21.8 yards per kick return, but those aren’t the numbers you use to justify the maintaining a returns specialist. It also hasn’t helped that he has groped five times in his first two seasons, although he has also groped three times since moving to Pittsburgh, including once already this year on offense.
Yet since joining the Steelers, he’s averaged 10.4 yards per punt return and 23.9 yards per kick return, pretty solid numbers, especially compared to what the team has. got in recent years, especially in the kick back game.
Diontae Johnson was a very promising punt returner as a rookie, but he quickly grew too important to play and injured himself in Game 2 of last season while returning a punt. That’s when McCloud was put on punters in addition to kicks, and he and the Steelers haven’t looked back since. But hopefully Fangio and the Broncos will be on Sunday as he rushes into the end zone in what would be his first career touchdown of any kind.