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Gunner Olszewski has never met a Steelers Week 2 game he hasn’t tried to ruin

Admittedly, I don’t spend a whole lot of time and energy on the third phase of professional football: Special teams.

Maybe that’s why I can’t spot a former All-Pro return specialist when I see one.

Gunner Olszewski was an All-Pro return specialist for the New England Patriots back in 2020, and that was why people were slightly intrigued when the Steelers signed him during the 2022 free-agent frenzy.

“What would this Gunner guy add as a Steelers special teams ace?” Furthermore, “Could this Olssomethinghardtospell make a great sixth receiver for Pittsburgh?”

This is just a guess, but I’ll bet there are plenty of other Steelers fans who also don’t pay as much attention to special teams as perhaps they should. If that is the case, they were likely shocked that a former All-Pro would muff a punt and have it set up a crucial touchdown.

That was what Olszewski did late in the third quarter of a Week 2 game against the Patriots (his former team) at Acrisure Stadium in 2022. Olszewski’s mistake set New England up at the Steelers 20 and led to an insurance touchdown in what proved to be a 17-14 win for the visitors.

OK, but even Vince Vapale had a horrible special teams debut for the Eagles in 1976, but he more than made up for it after that (especially in the movie, Invincible). Surely, Olszewski would atone for his initial mistake, right?

Wrong.

Olszewski returned a total of eight punts for 55 yards in 2022. He also tallied three kickoff returns for 46 yards. He also fumbled one more time.

Surely, Olszewski was a special teams ace who got his nose dirty by tackling a bunch of people in 2022, right?

Wrong.

Olszewski recorded just two tackles a year ago, and I gotta be honest, I wouldn’t be shocked if one or both of them came after his fumbles.

What about Olszewski’s prowess as a pass-catcher? Surely, he contributed as a member of the Steelers receiving corps, right?

Wrong.

Olszewski caught five passes for 53 yards in 2022.

What about 2023? Surely, Olszewski would be cut before the end of training camp, right? I mean, it had to be a mere formality after Calvin Austin III had such a tremendous preseason as both a punt returner and a receiver, right?

Wrong.

Olszewski made the team out of training camp, and he was out there against the Browns on Monday night for yet another Steelers Week 2 game at Acrisure Stadium.

And Olszewski again did his best to ruin a Steelers Week 2 game at Acrisure Stadium.

Midway through the first quarter, shortly after Cleveland kicked a field goal to make it 7-3, Olszewski, who was back to return the ensuing kickoff, drew a bead on Dennis Hopkins’s high and short attempt as it was headed for the far sideline. Instead of simply letting the ball go all the way out of bounds, which would have given Pittsburgh possession at its own 40, Olszewski did his best Antonio Brown impression by catching the kick and Tony Toe Tapping both feet down before going out of bounds at the nine.

I’m not sure if you know the rules on kickoffs, but had Olszewski simply caught the ball after going out of bounds, the Steelers would still have gained possession at the 40. Instead, he made sure to let the officials know that he got both of those feet in before going out of bounds at the nine. Maybe this is a bad analogy, but that would be like trying to blackmail someone AFTER they confessed to their wife that they had an affair.

Not since Barry Foster in 1990, when he simply allowed the 49ers to pounce on a kickoff because he thought it was a punt, had I witnessed such a clueless act on special teams. But at least Foster was a rookie in 1990. He wasn’t a former All-Pro return specialist.

Olszewski’s decision was so baffling, I wonder if he pulled a reverse Foster and thought he was fielding a punt.

Olszewski added salt to his wound later in the first quarter when he fumbled after catching a short pass from Kenny Pickett, a mistake the Browns eventually parlayed into eight points.

It is true that Olszewski got injured on that play, and that he’s now in the concussion protocol.

Thoughts and prayers and all of that, but Olszewski shouldn’t even have been out there to get injured in the first place.

Olszewski has contributed exactly nothing as a return specialist during his time as a Steeler, and when it comes to being a receiver, he’s like Ryan Switzer but without the career accomplishments.

I realize the Steelers are currently lacking at the receiver spot, what with Diontae Johnson on Injured Reserve. Sure, Miles Boykin is no bargain, but what about those talented tight ends? Pat Freiermuth is expected to be a star any minute now. Connor Heyward showed enough as a rookie that he is already a way better target than Olszewski ever was. What about rookie Darnell Washington? In addition to being a vicious blocker, I thought he was supposed to be a matchup problem in the passing game.

And it would seem like a no-brainer to throw Austin back there as both a kick and punt returner.

The Steelers were awfully lucky to win this year’s Week 2 game at Acrisure Stadium, and if Gunner Olszewski had anything to say about it (and he did), they wouldn’t have.

Again, get well soon, Gunner, but after you get healthy, you need to think about doing anything besides playing football for the Steelers.

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