It will be interesting to see how quickly new Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster can be fully integrated into the team’s offense during his rookie season and one would think that will likely happen sooner rather than later being as the team selected him in the second-round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
A few ways to get the USC product on the field early during the 2017 season might be situationally and that means on third downs and inside the red-zone.
During his three seasons at USC, Smith-Schuster proved to be a valuable commodity in those two situational areas. On third downs during his college career, Smith-Schuster registered 49 third down catches by my count and 34 of those either moved chains or were touchdowns.
While I haven’t yet compiled all his total career college targets on third downs, I can tell that my quick research of the 2016 season shows he caught 20 of 33 passes thrown his way and that 17 of his receptions resulted in either first downs or touchdowns. I am currently compiling all 20 of those receptions for you to watch so check this post later this evening for that video.
As for Smith-Schuster potentially being a red-zone asset to the Steelers right out of the chute, it appears the young wide receiver caught 24 such passes thrown his way during his college career when the USC offense started a play from their opposition’s 20-yard-line and in. 17 of those receptions produced either a touchdown (12 times) or a first down (5 times).
Last year during the regular season the Steelers had seven different wide receivers who caught passes on plays that started on the opposition’s 20-yard-line and in and only three of them, Antonio Brown, Eli Rogers and Sammie Coates, registered more than one reception in that area of the field.
While the presumed return of Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant in 2017 figures to be a big boost to the team’s red-zone offense being as seven of his career touchdown receptions have come in that area of the field, having Smith-Schuster on the field in those situations could likely make it even harder on opposing defenses to defend those very important blades of grass.