PITTSBURGH – What began as a light social media beef between a Pittsburgh Steelers receiver and a local sports radio host developed into a “Reception Challenge” raising more than $6,000 for charity.
Ryan Switzer has pledged $40 per reception for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and 7-year-old leukemia patient Darran Dunlap, the daughter of 93.7 The Fan host Colin Dunlap.
Here’s how the “Ryan Switzer Reception Challenge” started: Dunlap tweeted “Yikes” at the notion Switzer was a primary target on a last-minute play during the Week 11 win at Jacksonville. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw Switzer’s way on an interception that was negated when Jacksonville was penalized for grabbing Switzer’s facemask in the end zone.
Switzer responded to Dunlap: “Clearly I must have done something to upset this dude. Lol c’mon man there’s no need to be a keyboard warrior.”
The two went back and forth respectfully, and to make clear his tweet wasn’t personal, Dunlap announced he would give $20 per future Switzer catch to a charity of the player’s choice.
Switzer responded with a $40-per-catch pledge for UPMC Children’s Hematology/Oncology Department.
The original goal was $5,000, which donors surpassed before Switzer even made a catch. Dunlap and Switzer are now well on their way to $10,000. Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt is ready to help.
Switzer, who has six regular-season games left, told ESPN earlier in the week that he will respond to social media criticism when necessary but was glad he and Dunlap “addressed it in an appropriate manner, handled it like men and moved on.”
The debate and the gesture speak to Switzer’s growth as a professional after getting traded twice in the offseason. With 21 catches, he’s secure enough in his play to defend it, but also wants to stay positive and help others. Roethlisberger has thrown Switzer’s way 25 times in 118 offensive snaps.
“I feel like it shows maturity — I kind of like where I am right now, how I go about my business,” said Switzer, who’s also served as the primary kickoff and punt returner since Pittsburgh acquired his rights from Oakland in an August trade. “It is a process. I really feel like I’m coming into my own as a player. I feel like I’m getting back to who I was in college, the playmaker I was. You bounce around, get traded twice and you don’t really know why. I knew it wasn’t a talent issue, it wasn’t a hard work issue, it just wasn’t working out. Now, I do feel like I have a home.”
And a cause.
Switzer, who played with Dallas as a rookie before the Cowboys traded him, tweeted about the fundraising effort on Friday.
As for internet criticism, Switzer doesn’t mind letting people know one thing on occasion.
“I can play,” he said.