Steelers training camp preview: Can Quadree Henderson earn spot as top returner?
The Tribune-Review will examine each position on the Steelers roster as they prepare to report for training camp Wednesday at Saint Vincent. Today’s installment looks at nine kickoff and punt return candidates:
JuJu Smith-Schuster : The Steelers didn’t have a true No. 1 kickoff returner last season, with four players getting multiple touches. Smith-Schuster averaged 26.7 yards on nine returns, a number inflated by his 96-yard return for a touchdown in the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns. Two of the other return men from last season are gone: Martavis Bryant and Terrell Watson.
Fitzgerald Toussaint : He had six returns for a 15.7 average in the regular season and returned a pair of kicks in the divisional playoff loss to Jacksonville. He is the most experienced kickoff returner on the roster but is in an uphill climb to make the team.
Cam Sutton : Although he didn’t make the stat sheet in the regular season, Sutton did have a 22-yard kickoff return in the divisional playoff loss. He had three kickoff returns in his senior season at Tennessee.
Artie Burns : He was listed as the backup on the depth chart last year, but he has not returned a kick in two NFL seasons.
Jaylen Samuels : His versatility at N.C. State extended to the return game. He had nine kickoff returns as a senior, averaging 23.7 yards per try. He had only three returns over the previous two seasons.
James Washington : The Steelers second-rounder is an unlikely candidate given he had no returns during his senior year at Oklahoma State. But Washington did return five kicks over his first three collegiate seasons.
On camp roster
Quadree Henderson : Among the undrafted free agents, Henderson was the one signed primarily for his return skills. At Pitt, Henderson averaged 26.6 yards on 73 career kickoff returns. He brought four back for touchdowns, including three in his sophomore season, when he averaged 30.5 yards per try.
Marcus Tucker : The former practice squad player, who is trying to win a job as a slot receiver, had two kickoff returns in the 2017 preseason. He had extensive experience in college at Northern Michigan.
Antonio Brown : The Steelers have been trying for some time to get their All-Pro receiver away from returning punts. Nobody has stepped up to unseat him. Eli Rogers had 19 returns last season to Brown’s 11, but he remains unsigned.
Cam Sutton : He didn’t get any chances last season but was frequently used at Tennessee. In his final three seasons, he averaged 14.3 yards on 46 returns. He had three returns for touchdowns.
On camp roster
Henderson : Again, among the undrafted free agent class, Henderson stands out. He had three career touchdowns over a two-season span and averaged 13.4 yards on 37 tries. The path to a spot on the 53-man roster lies in how well Henderson excels in the return game during the preseason.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @tribjoerutter.