The calendar has now flipped over to July and that means the Pittsburgh Steelers annual training camp will be getting underway in Latrobe later this month. As usual, we have several series planned to get you ready for this year’s training camp and mine will center around preview profiles of 50 players over the course of the next 25 days. Most of these profiles will be on players who were under contract with the team in 2016.
Our second rookie of the series; second round pick JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Intro: Smith-Schuster was the Steelers’ surprise pick of the draft, taken in the second round out of USC, despite limited interest in him during the pre-draft process. At 20 years old, his age was something the Steelers were drawn to, teeming with upside. But JuJu has shown advanced maturity and has quickly become a fan favorite.
Current Strengths: Throwback receiver who takes pride in doing the dirty work. Physical blocker, unselfish attitude, with the ability to play the Z or in the slot. Excellent hands who can go over the middle to make contested catches. High IQ for his age, able to find grass in zone and run away from man coverage. Works well in scramble drills, knows how to get open. Physical at catch points vertically and wins jump balls, making up for lack of ideal athletic traits.
Current Weaknesses: Not the fastest nor does he have the best vertical. Slot position will be an adjustment for him. Has to show more nuance in the stem of his route to separate at the top. Not naturally shifty or able to sink his hips and burst away at top speed.
2017 Outlook: Smith-Schuster will be in a fierce camp battle with Eli Rogers for the starting slot job. With his experience, Rogers will enter with a leg up but second round picks rarely sit for long in today’s NFL. Even if he doesn’t win the slot job outright, he could be used in the red zone or four wide receiver personnel groupings.
2017 Base Salary: $465,000
2017 Salary Cap Charges: $762,869
2017 Health Status: No known ailments exiting offseason program
2016 Health Status: No known injuries
2016 Regular Season Snaps Played: N/A
2016 Stat That Matters: Had one touchdown for every seven receptions in 2016 (70 catches, 10 TDs)