Count me as someone who, when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, said to himself, “Really?”
It wasn’t that I didn’t like Smith-Schuster, there is plenty to like about the Southern California kid, but I felt there were more pressing positional needs for the Steelers in the second round.
Enter the first smack in the face of Steelers lore: The team drafts based on Best Player Available, not on positional need.
On top of that, I never thought Smith-Schuster would do much more than be a slot receiver for the Steelers.
Enter the second smack in the face of Steelers lore: The team knows how to draft wide receivers.
While Smith-Schuster has gone above-and-beyond almost all of our collective expectations, no one, probably even the Steelers themselves, expected Smith-Schuster to put together a rookie season like this.
His yards, receptions and touchdowns are all impressive enough, but Pro Football Focus (PFF) had a statistic about Smith-Schuster which is absolutely mind-boggling:
Pittsburgh Steelers: Through 17 weeks, rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has caught 58-of-77 targets for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, all good for a passer rating when targeted of 134.0. This is the best mark among all wide receivers this year and the best mark ever recorded by a rookie.
Anytime things like ‘best among all wide receivers’, and ‘best mark ever’ are used when talking about a player is astounding, talking about a rookie and that is remarkable.
Smith-Schuster has exceeded everyone’s expectations so far in 2017, and his progress has given the Steelers another weapon to their already deep arsenal.