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Ryan Switzer nearly quit football last year

Ben Roethlisberger has to be careful with criticism of his Steelers teammates going forward as he vows to be a better leader going forward.

After a pair of hot-potato trades following only one season in the NFL, Steelers receiver Ryan Switzer came very close to walking away from the game. A brief encounter with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin not long before the season opener changed that.

“We are playing Cleveland in three days, and he says to me, ‘Make sure you get your sh-t together because you are going to be in there a lot,’” Switzer told Mark Kaboly of regarding remarks made in the aftermath of the trade that sent Switzer from Oakland to Pittsburgh less than two weeks before Week One.

“Now, I am thinking I am just going to come here and catch some punts and some kicks and be kind of an afterthought,” Switzer said. “It was like ‘Wow!’ He didn’t care where I came from and what they thought of me, and he puts me out there Week One against Cleveland [for seven offensive snaps] because he has trust in me. . . .

“I have always been a guy who if you show trust in me, I will run through a brick wall or die trying,” Switzer said. “For him to do that, I felt really good.”

Few knew that Switzer, a West Virginia speedster who had a standout career at North Carolina but who then was traded from the Cowboys to the Raiders after only one year and then to the Steelers before ever playing for Oakland, was thinking about packing it in.

“It was more than I didn’t think I belonged anymore,” Switzer told Kaboly. “I have never had somebody not want me before. I have never been through a trade, I have never been through a team basically telling me that they didn’t have a need for me. I took a hit in confidence and my mindset.”

Switzer explained that he believed he was “letting [his] wife down” after moving from Dallas to Oakland and then to Pittsburgh.

“I felt really bad,” Switzer told Kaboly. “I told her that this isn’t worth me feeling like this anymore.”

Helping Switzer make the transition is the fact that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (to whom Switzer refers as “7" not as “Mr.”) took a liking to him.

“I don’t know why he chose me to try to pick me up and get me involved, but he did and I am grateful for that and I don’t take that for granted,” Switzer said.

He now has an opportunity to help fill the void created by the trade to Oakland of a guy who took a strong disliking to Roethlisberger in recent months. And if Switzer can continue to develop as a slot receiver, he could have a long and fruitful career roughly 220 miles up I-79 from where he grew up.