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Steelers All 90: Jordan Byrd Looks to Impress as Return Specialist

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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jordan Byrd at OTAs, May 31, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Jordan Byrd at OTAs, May 31, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Coming out of San Diego State, Jordan Byrd is hoping that he can be the spark plug to the Steelers return game that they have been searching for this offseason. While he will face multiple competitors, Byrd has a spark about him that could certainly allow him to stand out among the competitors.

The other thing that Byrd brings to the table is his versatility. Listed as a wide receiver, Byrd has played in the backfield, as a traditional receiver, and occupies multiple special teams roles. He is a unique gadget player that is starting to show up on the NFL field more and more these days. But he’s one of the first players like that to land in Pittsburgh.

“When I played at San Diego State, they knew if I had the ball in my hands I was trying to score,” Byrd said. “They felt confident with me with the ball in my hands. I want them to have the confidence in giving me the ball and doing stuff with it. I really enjoyed, and becoming a wide receiver, I’m really just learning from it. The return game, that’s one of my keys.”

Jordan Byrd is a name that most fans probably know the least in that room right now. Most teams in the NFL process looked at him as a receiver despite Byrd playing mostly running back at San Diego State. Specifically, they see Byrd as a speedy slot option with quickness in the YAC game.

Of course, the way Byrd makes it onto the roster is not by making plays as a receiver, but by making himself known on special teams. The returner part of the equation is a huge part of his road map to the 53-man roster. If he can chip in as a gunner as well, Byrd is going to have a fighting chance.

“You look at guys my size, we’re more accepted in the league now,” Byrd said. “If you have the ball in your hands, go out there and make plays. The rest will take care of it from there. I’m here to get the ball in my hands and make plays.”

As a smaller, faster receiver, Byrd has watched some Tyreek Hill tape to try and emulate some of his game. On top watching Hill’s tape as a receiver and route runner, he’s honed in on his early career tape as a returner, too. Right now, Byrd feels like he’s a playmaker who can turn into something more.

Byrd’s off the field hobby, bowling, gave him a circuit to work his competitiveness that he’s grown up to attribute to his football mind. He even owns a bowling ball, and at San Diego State’s campus, Byrd would go bowling multiple times per week to the point where he became rather good at it with a high score of 240. He’s taking a similar approach to playing receiver.

Despite being across the country away from New Mexico and California, Jordan Byrd feels something a little different about Pittsburgh. Walking through the doors of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, he realized he was on the NFL stage, and that this was his time to shine.

“It’s far away from home and California, but I like it here,” Byrd said. “There’s something big, a little different about this city. I love it.”

16 • Jordan Byrd, Wide Receiver, San Diego State
5-foot-9, 170 pounds, 23 years old, Rookie

Acquired: The Steelers signed Byrd on April 29 as an undrafted free agent following the 2023 NFL Draft.

Last season: Byrd returned to San Diego State for a fifth season in 2022, earning honorable mention status as an All-American kick returner and third All-MWC selection. He scored six touchdowns to lead the Aztecs, and scored them four difference ways: three rushing, one receiving, one on a kick return and one on a punt return.

CollegeByrd was the top recruit in New Mexico coming out of Manzano High School in Albuquerque in 2018, with the three-star prospect choosing San Diego State over Power Five offers from Arizona, Texas Tech and Utah.

He was an immediate contributor, playing 11 games as a freshman and contributing on both offense and special teams right away. He started six games at running back as a sophomore in 2019, playing in a five-way timeshare at that position while also serving as punt and kick returner.

In 2020, he won All-Mountain West honors as a kick returner and was on the Hornung Award watchlist for two- and three-way players. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry, lifted by a 73-yard touchdown against Utah State that was the longest for SDSU since Rashaad Penny in 2017. Byrd was a first-team all-conference kick returner in 2021, while setting a career high with 76 receiving yards and four total touchdowns.

Year GP Rush Yards Rec Yards KR Avg PR Avg TDs PFF Rating
2018 11 23 137 1 7 18.3 2.3 1 55.7
2019 12 78 355 16 64 21.3 7.8 3 67.8
2020 8 35 225 7 12 31.9 4.9 3 61.7
2021 14 37 246 13 76 27.3 7.1 4 78.9
2022 13 102 390 10 60 24.8 6.6 6 64.8

Salary cap and future: Byrd signed a three-year, $2.7 million rookie contract with the Steelers that includes a $7,500 signing bonus. He is scheduled to earn $750,000 in salary this season and will count for $752,500 against the Steelers’ salary cap. Byrd is slated to be a restricted free agent after the 2025 season.

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