2022 South Side Questions: Will Steven Sims capitalize on his opportunity or fumble?

The Steelers are at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, informally known as the South Side, now in the regular season. It’s where they otherwise train year-round, and the facility that Burt Lauten insists everyone refers to by its full name.

There are still some outstanding questions that need to be answered, even deep into the regular season. They entered the process with questions in the starting formation, in the scheme and elsewhere, but new problems always arise that need to be resolved.

Even the questions of who starts and when may not have satisfactory answers in their finality, as mid-season changes are certainly entirely possible, for some positions more than others. We also sense how new coordinator messages — or messages in new contexts — end up playing out.

There is never a shortage of questions when it comes to football, and we will be discussing them here on a daily basis so that the community “talk to each otheras Linda Richman might say on Coffee Talk.

Question: Will Steven Sims capitalize on his opportunity to be the Steelers’ return man or will he fumble?

Although it didn’t show up on the depth chart, Steven Sims himself confirmed he would return punts and kicks for the Steelers on Sunday. This follows Gunner Olszewski’s struggles with ball safety in the first month of the season. He has one failed punt and one fumble each on both punt return serve and offense.

The job of any returning man who intends to keep this role is to secure and retain possession of the football, so when you give your coaches reason to doubt your ability to do so, you are exposing yourself to the responsibility.

But we also have to be honest about Steven Sims. The last time he played much was in 2020, and in that year he fumbled five times. Four of those fumbles came on comebacks, a mix of innings and fumbles on the comeback.

It was back with Washington, of course. He’s going to wipe the slate clean now, so to speak. But he has those issues on his strip, and there’s no reason to think that can’t show up in Pittsburgh, so that’s something we have to watch.

The safe back man is a precious commodity. Tomlin was fond of Ray-Ray McCloud’s ability as a return man, but it’s entirely possible his ball safety issues, which threatened to become him bench last season, also contributed to the team’s desire to replace him this offseason.

A decision will likely be made at some point in the next three weeks. The team will then activate rookie wide receiver Calvin Austin III from the reserve/disabled list, and the spot he is most likely to take on is Olszewski or Sims. How the Sims, or maybe both, are doing as long as they get by then could be the deciding factor.

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