The Pittsburgh Steelers know how to draft wide receivers, and some would say they are the best in the business at doing just that. With that said, when they selected JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second round from USC, many asked, “Is this the next great Steelers wide receiver?”
For those who wondered the same thing, I asked, and answered, this very question on the latest Stelers Connection podcast, which you can hear in the player above.
Let’s break it down...
- Youth Served
Smith-Schuster is the youngest player in the NFL at 20-years-old slot receiver, but don’t let his age fool you — he can play. A very mature football player for his age, Smith-Schuster has shown the versatility to keep him on the field as much as possible. He can play the slot, but can also play on the outside, something he will likely do vs. the Lions on Sunday Night Football without Martavis Bryant around.
- Speed Kills
There is no substitute for speed, and one of the main knocks on Smith-Schuster is his lack of straight line speed. He may not be someone who can run by a defender and take the top off a defense, but neither is Antonio Brown. Smith-Schuster, by many reports, has been compared to Anquan Boldin. Both are bigger, stronger receivers who have to be great route runners to get themselves into space. Boldin, and others, have made a living out of this style of play.
- Draft Status / Pedigree
When talking about the best receivers in Steelers history, Antonio Brown should be at, or near, the top of the list. One thing folks should remember when comparing Smith-Schuster to Brown is their draft status and pedigree. Brown was a 6th round draft pick who had very little experience playing receiver in college. Brown was a quarterback in high school, and was considered very raw. Being a 2nd round pick means you should come in and step up sooner, and although Smith-Schuster’s stats aren’t mind-blowing, he is contributing in a big way.
- Quarterbacks Matter
How good will JuJu Smith-Schuster be down the road? A lot rides on the future status of Ben Roethlisberger. If Roethlisberger sticks around for a few more seasons, it would help Smith-Schuster put up the numbers to consider him on the same track as Brown when he and Roethlisberger developed a rapport few quarterbacks and receivers have found in their careers. If Roethlisberger hangs up the cleats, it would hinder his development/potential for years, depending who they bring in to throw passes. Think back to those great receivers who had to endure Bubby Brister, Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox.
You can hear more details, statistics and analysis in the podcast player above. Take a listen to the 13-minute show...you won’t regret it!