The Pittsburgh Steelers sure do know how to pick wide receivers. And when they selected JuJu Smith-Schuster out of USC in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft it may have caused some eyebrows to raise, but the pick sure has panned out.
After accumulating nearly 1,000 yards as a rookie, Smith-Schuster has come into his own in his sophomore season. Most fans assumed after the departure of Martavis Bryant, it would be Smith-Schuster who would take over the duties on the outside opposite Antonio Brown.
Smith-Schuster has remained in the slot, where he prefers the physicality of play, and he has continued to thrive in this spot.
Check out the numbers for slot receiving production, from ESPN’s NFL Matchup Twitter account:
For Smith-Schuster, his style of play is a perfect blend of old school physicality, combined with modern day creativity. However, what has become the best part of his game is the rapport he has developed with Ben Roethlisberger.
When Roethlisberger escapes the pocket, his eyes usually fixate on No. 84, Antonio Brown, but this year there has been another threat who has been able to seemingly read Roethlisberger’s mind — JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Fans have already seen this on multiple occasions this season. The key first down completion on second down vs. the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football saw Roethlisberger step up in the pocket, and move to his right. It was Smith-Schuster who peeled off his route and sat in a zone for Roethlisberger to throw across his body and make the play.
This is just one example of what Smith-Schuster brings to the table, and most of the time it comes from the slot position in the offense. If Smith-Schuster can keep up this production, Pittsburgh’s offense will remain one of the more difficult to defend in the NFL.