The former Patriots All-Pro punt returner will be playing with some extra motivation when he takes the field with the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 2. FOXBORO — Former New England Patriots return specialist Gunner Olszewski has a bit of showmanship on his mind entering Week 2 of NFL action this weekend. The 25-year-old and his new Pittsburgh Steelers teammates will host the Patriots on Sunday, Sept. 18 as the two teams prepare to meet in the regular season for the first time since 2019.
While he may have moved on from New England to the Steel City via free agency earlier this year, Olszewski is “definitely” motivated to make the Pats regret their decision to move on from him during the offseason. “Anytime you play the ex, you want to show out,” Olszewski told reporters on Friday. “Any time I get the ball, I want to do something with it. Playing the old team … the team that didn’t want you … sure, I want to go out there and show what I can do.”
Olszewski joined the Patriots in 2019 as an undrafted free agent. Having played cornerback at Division II Bemidji State, Olszewski quickly adapted to receiving and returning punts in his first training camp. He would eventually become an All-Pro returner in 2020 after averaging 17.3 yards per punt return.
Once again serving as New England’s primary kick and punt returner in 2021, Olszewski continued to be productive in his role, gaining 309 yards on 26 returns. However, he saw a sharp decrease in his role on offense. He saw the field for only six percent of New England’s offensive snaps, as opposed to an average of 13 percent from his first two years in Foxboro. His productivity as a pass catcher was limited to just two catches for 31 yards on three targets in 2021. In fact, during his three seasons with the Patriots, he has amassed only nine catches for 127 yards and one touchdown.
Prior to the start of free agency, the Patriots declined to place a restricted free agency tender on Olszewski. While many were surprised at New England’s complacency in letting a former All-Pro returner hit the open market, especially knowing the team’s high regard for specialists in the game’s third phase, the move made financial sense.