The Pittsburgh Steelers surprised many with their second round selection of JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but Smith-Schuster did more than just prove the Steelers selection right — he turned heads as a rookie in the NFL.
Not only did Smith-Schuster almost have 1,000 yards receiving last year, and if it weren’t for his one-game suspension for his block of Vontaze Burfict he likely would have achieved that milestone, the former USC wideout proved he is more than just your typical slot receiver who moves the chains on third down.
Smith-Schuster proved he has more routes in the route tree than most realized, and what might be surprising to many, is how Smith-Schuster, who was criticized for his lack of breakaway speed, was money on go routes in 2017.
Check out this statistic from Pro Football Focus:
Of course most will remember the 99-yard catch and run he had against the Detroit Lions on Sunday Night Football, but Smith-Schuster took advantage of his situation.
What was his situation? Having Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell on the field to take defenders away from him. While Brown and Bell always draw the attention of the defense, it moved more one-on-one coverage to Smith-Schuster — and he took advantage of this.
In 2018, Smith-Schuster likely won’t have it as easy as 2017. Gone is Martavis Bryant, and although Bell and Brown return, the team’s wide receiver depth chart has changed dramatically. Eli Rogers is anything but a certainty to return after tearing his ACL in the season ending loss to the Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Playoff game, and rookie James Washington isn’t going to attract any extra attention until he starts to perform at the game’s highest stage.
Will Smith-Schuster pick up where he left off after his rookie season? Or will he become a player who experiences the sophomore slump? Let us know in the comment section below!