In the offseason, major networks turn to rankings to get them through the slow times of the NFL season. One such ranking last season ranked the best quarterback-wide receiver combinations in the league.
You had Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, Dak Prescott/Tony Romo and Dez Bryant and others, but they all were looking up at Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown.
The Pittsburgh Steelers duo almost has a sixth sense type of connection few have on the gridiron. You’ve heard it a million times in interviews, the connection is built around trust. Trust that Roethlisberger will find Brown, and trust Brown will make the play, no matter what, when facing single coverage.
This relationship hasn’t happened overnight, but is something second round rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster longs for, after nothing more than just Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in a black and gold uniform.
“Just today, I was watching [Antonio] and Ben. It’s eight years they’ve put together,” he told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after the last day of OTAs. “That’s something I want with a quarterback. For us to be all out here, we’re all building the same trust.”
Smith-Schuster might get such an opportunity earlier than expected in his rookie season. The big-bodied wide receiver was taking first team reps throughout the offseason workouts, but you can take that with a grain of salt until the team reports to training camp on July 27th.
Although Smith-Schuster might not have 8 years to develop such a rapport with Roethlisberger, like Brown did, he will have to learn quickly if he wants to make an impact on the offense in 2017. Last year, Eli Rogers spoke about the time it took for he and Roethlisberger to get on the same page with coverages, route adjustments and seeing the same thing at the line of scrimmage.
Nonetheless, with minicamp quickly approaching, and the simple fact Smith-Schuster was a second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he will have every chance possible to prove himself worthy of starting repetitions when the team starts hitting at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA in late July.
In the meantime, Smith-Schuster will get to watch the best quarterback-wide receiver duo in the NFL do work every day, and learn from it.