The Pittsburgh Steelers selected USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster in the second-round of the 2017 NFL Draft and offensive coordinator Todd Haley immediately discussed the very young pass catcher with the media.
“He is a young guy,” Haley said. “I think he’s the youngest in the draft. As you know, in the last few years we’ve had good success with young guys like that that. We feel like we are getting them early enough to really make an impact on their development. He is a good-sized receiver. He was very productive out there at USC. He is a really do-it-all guy.”
Smith-Schuster, who caught 213 passes for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns during his career at USC that included him playing in 40 games, has some position flexibility, according to Haley.
“He can play inside, outside. If you had to say what he excelled at, I’d say his ability to catch the ball in combative situations, 50/50 balls as we call them, and he usually comes down with them,” Haley said. “He’s a really exciting guy and we are excited to get him here to work on.”
Ahead of the draft, Smith-Schuster was compared to current free agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who Haley just so happened to have coached when the two were with the Arizona Cardinals several years ago. Haley was asked to comment on that comparison during his talk with the media.
“I hate to compare guys,” Haley started. “I coached Anquan, obviously in Arizona. He’s a great player. We’re talking about a young player who is just starting his career. I will say he is into football. He plays with a great passion. You can see it on the tape when you watch him. Those are guys that I get excited about and we get excited about. It’s great to see a receiver that’s not afraid to go in there and mix it up.”
If you were surprised by the Steelers selection of Smith-Schuster, it wouldn’t be surprising. In fact, the former USC was probably surprised the Steelers selected him as well due to the little contact they had with him during the pre-draft process that included a formal meeting at the scouting combine.
“It’s like speed dating,” Smith-Schuster said of his combine meeting experience during his conference call with the media. “You get 15 minutes. Seems like less than that because of how fast it’s going. Ever since then, pro day and everything, I haven’t even spoken to them until today.”
The Steelers have a very full wide receiver room now that Smith-Schuster has been added and it will be interesting to see how fast the USC product is able to get himself on the field. The fact that he’s not afraid of contact might result in him initially contributing some on special teams until he’s ready to assume a role on the offensive side of the football. Haley spoke about the physicality he saw out of Smith-Schuster at USC.
“That shows up in the run game, which is an exciting thing for us, Haley said. “He’s not a guy that’s afraid to stick his nose in there and block safeties and even some linebackers. He plays with a great passion, which is one of the exciting things about him.”