Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may have “pushed hard” for the team to draft Pittsburgh running back James Conner, but that doesn’t mean that he is actively indulging in scouting, or really even knows all that much about the process. In fact, the player he thinks he may be working the most with from the draft class is somebody that he was barely aware of.
Pittsburgh drafted JuJu Smith-Schuster, the wide receiver out of USC, in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and though Roethlisberger admitted that he doesn’t “know much about him”, he did say that he has heard “nothing but good things”.
He even went so far as to say about Smith-Schuster that “it sounds like he can come in and help us right away”, which is a rarely for anybody coming into the league at the age of 20. The youngster won’t even be able to have his first drink until late November.
“I just shake my head about that”, Roethlisberger said when thinking about the young wide receiver’s age, who is 15 years younger than the Pro Bowl quarterback. “When that kid was born, I was in high school!”, he said. “Geez!”.
Despite his young age, however, Smith-Schuster does already have a significant amount of experience. In three years while working with Cody Kessler and Sam Darnold out in Southern California, he compiled 213 receptions for 3092 yards and 25 touchdowns. His presence as a red-zone threat increased last season, but he was also a home-run hitter, with seven of his 10 touchdowns during his sophomore year coming 20 or more yards away.
Speaking of his ability to contribute right way, Roethlisberger said, “that’s what we’re looking for. We don’t need somebody to come in and replace anybody. We just need someone to help us. To win a championship, we’re going to need everybody”.
I hope that you picked up on the word choice here, as Roethlisberger was alluding to a Tweet by Martavis Bryant, who has spent the past season out of football while serving a suspension, but has recently been conditionally reinstated. After the Steelers drafted Smith-Schuster, he wrote that the new wide receiver was Sammie Coates’ replacement rather than his.
But there is more to Roethlisberger’s comment than that, of course, and that is that he believes the Steelers’ offense will have a role for the youngster very quickly, if not immediately. After all, when a team drafts a player in the early rounds of the draft, they would generally like to get a fairly quick return on investment.
At around 6’2”, 220 pounds, Smith-Schuster is a different sort of presence than the Steelers have had in the slot recently. He is a zone-finder who can use his size to battle over the middle and come down with contested catches paired with his sure hands. The ability to win the 50-50 balls is something that was said that the team lacked during their post-draft press conference.