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Steelers All 90: Gunner Olszewski Has Heard the Doubters



Steelers Gunner Olszewski
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and kick returner Gunner Olszewsi at OTAs, May 31, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Gunner Olszewski to a two-year contract prior to the 2022 season in hopes of receiving an All-Pro punt returner but things quickly went ajar for the former college defensive back. Olszewski started the season as the Steelers’ punt returner but was replaced after he muffed two punts in a three-game span including one against his former team, the Patriots, that led to a touchdown in a 17-14 loss.

He lost his job as the starting punt returner to former Steelers wide receiver Steven Sims and only regained the spot when Sims was inactive because of an injury. That is one play, especially because it came against his former team and a Steelers’ rival, that pings in people’s heads when thinking of Olszewski’s first season in Pittsburgh but he said do not let that one play define who he is as a player.

“You can’t change it,” Olszewski said about the play. “If you want to define me by one play, go ahead. But doubt me? I hope you do.”

With Sims gone to the Houston Texans, it would be easy to assume that Olszewski will be named as the team’s starting returner once again but according to him, he hopes that the team gives everybody a shot because he wants to prove that he can do it at a high level through competition.

“You have to earn a spot at the table, and that’s what’s so special about this game,” Olszewski said. “Last year, it felt like the job was given to me, and I don’t want that again. I have never had anything handed to me, so I am looking forward to proving myself to the coaches and my teammates.”

Regardless of what Olszewski achieved during his time in New England, due to his tough first year with the Steelers, he will have to beat out some tough competition for his roster spot this season. Players such as Calvin Austin II and Jordan Byrd can compete for the team’s starting returner role since both have blazing speed. Olszewski knows that he had a bad year last season and is ready to right the ship for 2023.

“You’re only as good as your last game,” Olszewski said. “And last year I didn’t have a good year, and I’m man enough to admit that, so all I can do is the things that I did to get me to where I was and do those again.”

89 • Gunner Olszewski, Wide Receiver, Bemidji State
5-foot-10, 190 pounds, 26 years old, 5th Season

Acquired: The Steelers signed Olszewski to a two-year contract on March 18, 2022, after his contract with the New England Patriots expired.

Last SeasonIn his first season as a member of the Steelers, Olszewski played wide receiver and punt returner. He appeared in 16 games in 2022 and finished the season with five receptions, 53 yards, and no touchdowns.

Olszewski caught his first pass as a Steeler in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints. The next week, Olszewski had his best-receiving game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals as he caught two passes for 39 yards.

Steelers Gunner Olszewski

New England Patriots safety Brenden Schooler (41) recovers a fumble by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Gunner Olszewski (89) on a punt during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. The Patriots scored on an ensuing drive. (AP Photo/Phil Pavely)

CareerAfter an exciting defensive career at Bemidji State, Olszewski earned tryouts with the Minnesota Vikings at cornerback and the Patriots at wide receiver.

The Patriots decided to sign the undersized Olszewski as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2019 season. After a bizarre series of events, the Patriots kept Olszewski on the team’s initial 53-man roster. Olszewski made his NFL debut against the Steelers in Week 1 as he returned two punts for 35 yards. He caught his first reception in Week 6 against the New York Giants and finished that game with two catches for 34 yards. He was later placed on the team’s injured reserve, which ended his season.

In 2020, Olszewski played in 13 games for the Patriots and caught a total of five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown. He recorded his first NFL touchdown in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Chargers on a punt return and then caught his first NFL receiving touchdown later in that same game. After the season, Olszewski was named AP All-Pro First-Team at the punt returner position.

Olszewski appeared in 16 games again in 2021 as he only caught two passes for 31 yards and did not score a receiving touchdown. In a game against the Chargers, Olszewski had three punt returns of 20 yards or more which is a rare feat, last accomplished by a Patriots player in 2000.

Year GP Receptions Yards AVG TDs
2019 8 2 34 17.0 0
2020 13 5 62 12.4 1
2021 16 2 31 15.5 0
2022 16 5 53 10.6 0

CollegeComing out of high school in Alvin, Texas as a defensive back, Olszewski committed to Division II Bemidji State and made an immediate impact. As a true freshman, Olszewski played in 11 games and recorded 85 combined tackles, five pass breakups, and seven interceptions. He snagged three interceptions in one game against Minot State. After the season, Olszewski was named an NSIC  North Division All-Conference First-Team Defense player.

In 2016, Olszewski played in all 11 games again and finished the year with a staggering 95 combined tackles, three interceptions, and 10 pass breakups. He led the school to its first post-season victory in the 2016 Mineral Water Bowl.

As a junior in 2017, Olszewski appeared in 11 games and finished the season with 67 tackles, one interception, and seven pass breakups.

In 2018, Olszewski played in a career-low nine games but still finished the season with 63 tackles, three interceptions, and four pass breakups. After the season, Olszewski was honored with his fourth All-NSIC First-Team Defense and his first NSIC Defensive Player of the Year award. Following the season, in hopes of an NFL career, Olszewski participated in the University of Minnesota’s Pro-Day and eventually got tryouts with the Vikings and Patriots.

Year GP Tackles INTs PBUs
2015 11 85 7 5
2016 11 95 3 10
2017 11 67 1 7
2018 9 63 3 4

Salary cap and future: Olszewski is entering the second year of his two-year contract that he signed with the Steelers in 2022. He will cost $2.62 million against the Steelers’ cap space in 2023. His cap hit includes a base salary of $2 million and a prorated bonus of $617,500. He is signed through the end of this season and will become an unrestricted free agent following the conclusion of the season.

The rest of the 90: