JuJu Smith-Schuster was a bit of a surprising draft pick for the Pittsburgh Steelers. With Martavis Bryant being officially reinstated just before the 2017 NFL Draft, many Steelers fans thought that the team wouldn’t need to take a wide receiver. However, with their second pick in the draft, the Steelers decided to take Smith-Schuster.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Set to Have a Huge Rookie Season
Smith-Schuster finished his final season at USC with 70 receptions for 914 yards and ten touchdowns. In 2015, he finished with 89 receptions for staggering 1,454 yards and ten touchdowns. USC plays in a pro-style offense, meaning that Smith-Schuster is more NFL-ready than wide receivers who played in a spread or an option-style system.
Smith-Schuster was arguably the best player available when he was taken, so it wasn’t really a reach for the Steelers to take him as early as they did. The Steelers now have seven wide receivers on their roster that have started at least one NFL game, and then there’s the rookie, Smith-Schuster. Having a surplus of wide receivers allows the Steelers to pick and choose who they want to keep and can potentially save some money. Signing Smith-Schuster to his rookie contract solidifies his spot as a Steeler at least for the next few years.
Earning His Spot
Another benefit of having so many wide receivers is that Smith-Schuster will have to earn his spot. Unlike a lot of other first and second round wide receivers, who are immediately expected to start and make an impact, Smith-Schuster has plenty of competition to push him. Smith-Schuster could very well start the season as a backup because of his rookie status as well as the fact that the Steelers have so many veteran wide receivers. He is in a similar position to Eli Rogers, who played in the slot last season. Still, expect him to be in the lineup eventually. The Steelers wouldn’t use a second-round pick on him if they didn’t think that he’d eventually make an impact.
Smith-Schuster will likely play in the slot while Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant play outside. Even if Bryant doesn’t pan out, it’s unlikely that Smith-Schuster will play outside. He’s built perfectly to be a slot receiver and is great at making plays after the catch. Smith-Schuster is a big, physical receiver that’s not afraid to go over the middle of the field. Defenses will focus on Brown and Bryant, leaving Smith-Schuster with a mismatch the majority of the time. Smith-Schuster could also become a favorite red-zone target for Ben Roethlisberger because of his size.
The loss of Ladarius Green and lack of a consistent red-zone target besides Brown will likely make Smith-Schuster a favorite target for Roethlisberger. He should benefit from a strong running game thanks to Le’Veon Bell; along with a strong offensive line that will give Roethlisberger plenty of time. He can scan the field and find one of his plethora of wide receivers open.