The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense isn’t what it used to be, and there are plenty of reasons for the step backwards. First, the injury to Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2 of the 2019 regular season stunted the development of the offense. Instead of picking up where they left off in 2018, the offense has had to start from scratch as Mason Rudolph develops as the team’s quarterback.
On top of Roethlisberger’s absence, the team was without their top wide receiver, and arguably their best offensive weapon, in Antonio Brown when he forced his way out of town following Week 17 last year.
Fans were hoping JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had near unparalleled success in his first two years in the league, would simple move into the No. 1 wide receiver role and not skip a beat. Due to the absence of Roethlisberger and the lack of a true No. 2 wide receiver has Smith-Schuster struggling to be a difference maker week in and week out.
The lack of a vertical threat has been noticed not just among the black-and-gold fan base, but also to the Steelers’ opponents. As the team prepares for the Los Angeles Rams in Week 10 at Heinz Field, recently acquired cornerback Jaylen Ramsey talked about him facing against JuJu Smith-Schuster, and he said he isn’t that worried about it.
“I matched up with Antonio for two years there, and that was a good battle. I held my own in those battles. Now, I’m going against a different person, a different body type, a different receiver a little bit. He can make plays. But I’m playing my game. I’m not really worried about it.” Ramsey told Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.
Is Smith-Schuster the caliber of Brown? Not according to Ramsey...
“No disrespect to him, he’s not Antonio Brown,” Ramsey said Friday.
Realizing he could be on the verge of quality bulletin board material for the Steelers heading into this matchup Sunday, he made it a point to give Smith-Schuster some credit as a receiver.
“He plays very physical,” Ramsey said. “He plays strong, aggressive through the catch.”
Smith-Schuster showed up on the team’s injury report Friday with a foot injury, and whether that hinders him in the game has yet to be seen. One thing is for certain, if the Steelers are smart they will maximize their matchups by not having Smith-Schuster square up against Ramsey often. The easiest way to do this is to keep Smith-Schuster in the slot. Ramsey won’t travel to the interior to cover a receiver, and would stay on the perimeter to cover either James Washington or Diontae Johnson.
Assuming Smith-Schuster plays, and is healthy, if he and Ramsey to go head-to-head it will be a matchup worth watching. I’m sure Smith-Schuster knows what was said and is hoping to put an exclamation point on his work at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday at Heinz Field.