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49ers Get Big Boost With Return of Former Steelers WR



Steelers 49ers WR Ray-Ray McCloud
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, Sept. 26, 2021. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that former Steelers and current 49ers wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud has been cleared from his wrist injury and will be limited in practice this week. McCloud is the team’s starting return man and another weapon for Shanahan’s offense.

He avoided an injured reserve stint, leaving the possibility open that he could play. McCloud suffered a broken wrist during a training camp practice. He needed surgery and was expected to miss eight weeks. That put McCloud’s return tentatively around Week 5 of the 2023 season. But it seems he is ahead of schedule. His status is still up in the air, but what was once thought impossible now seems possible.

In addition to his receiving duties, McCloud was the starting kick and punt returner for the 49ers in 2022. He averaged 10.8 yards per punt return and 23 yards per kickoff return for the 49ers last season. McCloud also caught 14 passes for 243 yards and ran four times for 78 yards, scoring two touchdowns. If McCloud can not play, rookie wide receiver Ronnie Bell would likely take those duties.

McCould left the Steelers via free agency last March, landing with the 49ers on a two-year, $10.4 million deal. McCloud spent two seasons as the Steelers’ primary punt and kick returner, and also became an integral part of the offense. 

In 2021, McCloud led the NFL in punt returns (38) and punt return yards. He averaged 9.7 yards per punt return and 22.2 yards per kickoff return, finishing in the top 15 in both categories. Offensively, he set a career-high in nearly every category, catching 39 of 66 targets for 277 yards. He also rushed twice for 15 yards. 

Originally a sixth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2018, McCloud spent one season in Buffalo and another with the Carolina Panthers. He was re-signed by Buffalo but waived before the 2020 season and caught on with Pittsburgh.