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Ray-Ray McCloud making play after play for Steelers

Original Source: https://triblive.com/sports/ray-ray-making-play-after-play-play-mccloud-fitting-in-with-steelers/

Ray-Ray is done-done with trying to be somebody he’s not-not.

And what Ray-Ray McCloud is showing he is with the Pittsburgh Steelers is an electric playmaker.

“When I got here, it was just my mindset was, ‘Go be you, just be Ray-Ray,’ ” McCloud said Monday. “Be who Ray-Ray was, don’t go be ‘Ray,’ or whatever else.”

In only a few opportunities for the Steelers, McCloud’s acceleration and speed have dropped jaws and caused double takes worthy of a double forename that is a nod to McCloud’s grandfather and father of the same.

“I was given that name,” McCloud said of Ray-Ray, “when I came out of the womb.”

With only 14 touches this season, McCloud has the NFL’s fifth-longest rush (58 yards) and third-longest kick return (49 yards).

“Every time he touches the ball,” fellow Steelers receiver Chase Claypool said, “he makes a play.”

A mid-training camp signee, McCloud gradually is being assimilated into the offense. His first appearance on a scrimmage play this season was three snaps during a Week 3 win against the Houston Texans. But then this past week, McCloud played 18 snaps and was given the ball five times during a 38-29 win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Mostly as a result of his 58-yard run, McCloud’s 75 yards from scrimmage ranked second on the Steelers behind Claypool on Sunday.

“We ask Ray-Ray to do more, and I believe in him,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “We put some stuff in for him, obviously, the reverses and the passes. His role will continue to grow because he’s worked hard. He earned it, and he deserves it.”

McCloud takes pride in doing the work, and he took it to heart when, as a rookie sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills two years ago, he was developing a reputation that suggested otherwise.

So for his second NFL season, McCloud vowed to be more buttoned-up.

“And that still didn’t work,” said McCloud, who was cut by the Bills (twice) and Panthers over an 11-month span. “And so it was like, ‘OK, if neither of those work, I’m just going to go back to being myself, who I was on the football field and going back to what got me here.’

“It was just like my rookie year, I was the unprofessional (who) needs urgency, needs to grow up,” McCloud said moments later. “And then, turn around I was a day-and-night different person. Neither of those worked, so it was, ‘Let me get back to what mattered most,’ and it was being productive on the football field and doing what I do off the field.”

McCloud’s second release from Buffalo was just as training camps were beginning in late July. A former highly regarded college recruit who won a national championship at Clemson and left college early for the pros, McCloud sat unemployed for four weeks waiting for the phone to ring.

When it finally did, he couldn’t have known it was, say Kevin Colbert or Mike Tomlin … or even a caller of higher repute.

“The day the Steelers called me, I was at church in the middle of it, and a phone number kept calling me,” McCloud said. “I was kinda at a point where I was having days real quiet to yourself and didn’t want to talk about (his career). But that day, God was talking to me at church.

“And as soon as I left, I had to get on the plane.”

Destination, Pittsburgh, where, despite his late arrival (in relation to the start of the season), McCloud set his sights higher than the practice squad.

Sure enough, McCloud made the team as the kickoff returner.

His long return came in Week 2, and since then, he gradually has been more involved in the offensive gameplan.

“When I got here it was just, ‘Go be yourself,’ ” McCloud said. “I had a change to be a different person at other places, and when I got here it was, ‘Be yourself, and everything else will take care of itself.’ ”