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JuJu Smith-Schuster prefers the slot, which is great news for James Washington

Expected to have a big second year, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s flexibility might equate to big things for rookie James Washington.

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Jacksonville at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers shipping Martavis Bryant to the Oakland Raiders did more than just rock the fan base, it shook up the team’s wide-receiver depth chart. Once considered the most complete receiver group in the NFL, the Bryant trade meant the team would be relying heavily on younger players to step up.

One of those players is second-year receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Coming off of a season where he nearly eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark, Smith-Schuster is being asked to show off his versatility in 2018 by being able to play both the slot and the outside receiver positions. While Smith-Schuster was able to play both positions last year, if he had the choice of which position to play, he would pick the slot.

“Whatever it is they want me to do,” Smith-Schuster said Wednesday during Steelers mini-camp.

”I have been playing inside and outside.” Smith-Schuster told Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

”I like playing inside. I just like the physicalness of using the body. It’s part of my game.”

Smith-Schuster is certainly more than capable of playing both, but his superior blocking skills, and willingness to go to those “dirty” areas on the football field have more of an impact than where he lines up on any given play. In fact, this has a direct impact on the team’s second-round pick James Washington.

Washington, a superb deep-threat who thrives on the outside, would see more playing time with Smith-Schuster in the slot, compared to the alternative.

Offenses in today’s NFL are anything but standard. Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster and possibly even Washington are capable of playing any wide-receiver position on any given play. This ability helps the team utilize matchups and find success in a multitude of ways. But if Washington is only capable of mastering one position during his first year as a professional, having him on the outside opposite Brown, with Smith-Schuster being in the slot, would be the best-case scenario for the young receiver out of Oklahoma State.

Yes, the team lost Martavis Bryant, who’s still a tremendous talent brimming with potential, but the team’s offense is far from lost without him. Smith-Schuster’s flexibility and willingness to play the slot gives the Steelers plenty of options and potential matchups on any given play.

It’s a win-win for the Black-and-gold.