The Pittsburgh Steelers have a talented roster at many positions, yet none would be viewed as deep as the wide receiver position. The wide receivers are many, but the one knock on the pass catchers would be their maturation. When JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is only 24 years old, is viewed as the elder statesman of the group, it shows they are as young as they are talented.
Following the Steelers’ Week 1 win over the Buffalo Bills on the road, Ben Roethlisberger saw a lot from his receivers during the 23-16 win. He saw receivers being unselfish, but also a lot of growth with the players too.
“Well, I think each guy did something a little extra special in that game.” Roethlisberger said. “JuJu [Smith-Schuster] is JuJu. He’s tough, he’s reliable, he’s dependable, he does what you ask him to do. He lowers his head on the play and gets you that first down and shows that physicality. I thought Diontae started the game out really well. Got his knee banged up pretty bad. I don’t know that the old Diontae would have come back in the game and kept playing and making plays for us. I think that showed a lot of growth. James Washington coming in the game, like right away, not expecting to fill in, and catching the ball pretty early on the screen gets north, gets us big yards. And I thought Chase [Claypool] played like a grown man. Some of his catches down the field… It’s either a catch or it’s a penalty, and that’s what we preach to him all the time, that he should be unstoppable.”
When it comes to the position of receiver, it is one which has to be difficult for a quarterback to manage. When a drive fails, there are likely 2-3 players who come to the sideline telling the quarterback they were open, and to look their way next time. There is more to it than that, but Roethlisberger detailed to the media how each player was given a chance to make a play, and how they delivered for the Steelers in crunch time.
“You talk about the game early… those guys all want the ball, they all want stats, they all want numbers. It’s what every receiver wants. It wasn’t happening for anybody because we weren’t doing anything on offense.” Roethlisberger said. “At the end of the game, we come back in that last drive, and I think a lot of people anticipated us running the ball and using clock, and we came out and threw the ball. If any of those guys would have been pouting or shut it down because they were disappointed or upset that they weren’t getting the ball, we wouldn’t have been able to be successful on that drive.
“Instead, we used up however many minutes, we took the ball down the field, and we kicked a field goal. Each guy contributed on that drive, so, to me, that shows the growth and the maturity of these guys. Early on, it wasn’t going well, but they didn’t let it bother them. They were still there at the end of the game when it mattered the most to make the plays. So, to me, that’s a long-winded explanation of how they’ve grown a lot.”
During the Week 1 win, Roethlisberger targeted eight receivers/pass catchers, and all eight registered a reception. This has been a theme which has dated back well before Matt Canada took over the play calling duties for the Steelers. Spreading the ball around only maximizes the team’s chance of success on offense. As the team prepares for the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 2, having an offensive line which can protect Roethlisberger, and receivers who are not just getting open, but making plays, will be a critical aspect of the team winning their second straight game and moving their record to 2-0 on the season.
For more on this upcoming matchup, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they press on throughout the 2021 regular season.