PITTSBURGH — Coming from New England with only three career catches, it was fair to say that not much was expected of Gunner Olszewski in the receiving game. When Ray-Ray McCloud left for the 49ers, the Steelers jumped on Olszewski as the obvious replacement, and that is what he has been. On the first depth chart, it was Olszewski who was the team’s lead return man.
Of course, why would he not be? After all, Olszewski is no ordinary return man. This is a guy who was an All-Pro return man with the Patriots. Still, ever since minicamp, Olszewski has been open, time and time again. In the Steelers’ preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, it was Olszewski who caught the first touchdown from Mitch Trubisky.
“Yeah, listen, I have a ton of personal goals,” Olszewski said about his receiving past. “I feel good about how everything is going right now.”
Back at minicamp, it was Olszewski who said he came for a chance to suit up with Mike Tomlin. Now having that chance, he is proving just how shifty he is in the slot. More than anything, the quarterbacks are impressed with Olszewski. Trubisky, who threw two balls to him on the touchdown drive in Seattle, thought Olszewski’s performance was more than just good.
“Yeah, he’s shifty,” Trubisky said. “He gets open. He’s very quarterback-friendly, and when he gets the ball in his hands, he has great run after catch. He’s someone that you can rely on. You know he’s going to be in the right place. Like he did on that third down, made a guy miss, and was able to extend the play. I’m glad he’s getting the opportunity, and he really showed out tonight.”
Olszewski was more than complimentary of the quarterbacks after their performances as well. Throughout training camp, it was Olszewski who worked with all three of the quarterbacks. Oftentimes, he has been one of the blankets that the quarterbacks can rely upon the most. It was the practice that went into that left Olszewski impressed with the transition.
“This performance was a credit to the way we practice,” Olszewski said. “We got out there and practice as hard as the game is out there. I think our whole offense as a unit attests to that.”
It just seemed like week after week, Olszewski was about as solid a player as the Steelers could get. Not only was it impressive how he could seemingly catch everything, but his blocking was excellent as well. Mike Tomlin took notice right away that Olszewski was a tough player. That is what he appreciates about Olszewski as he puts up his argument to play some at wide receiver in the regular season.
“He’s adaptable, versatile, he plays multiple spots, he’s tough,” Tomlin said. “I can’t say enough about his toughness that
he displays, whether it’s related to toting the ball or blocking or otherwise, he’s a game guy.”
Even Kenny Pickett, who is a rookie, has found a dependable blanket in Olszewski. In the last two days of training camp, Pickett threw the ball to Olszewski nearly a dozen times. It was not necessarily intentional, either. It just so happens that Olszewski is an expert at getting. And when he gets open, Olszewski is going to make sure he catches that football.
“He knows coverage and knows what the quarterback wants to see and how we are seeing it from the pocket,” Pickett said. “He just knows how to get open. He is a football player. A high-IQ type of guy.”
Olszewski has more opportunities in the coming weeks to make sure the Steelers feature him as more than just a return man. If he does exactly what he has been doing since minicamp, Olszewski should see himself get a significant role in the Steelers offense.