James Harrison, the oldest player on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster, had already graduated high school by the time JuJu Smith-Schuster, the youngest player, was born. Smith-Schuster is the youngest player in the league. But that hasn’t prevented him from making an impact.
Even on a team that entered the year full of weapons, Smith-Schuster has carved out a big stake of playtime, seeing more snaps at receiver than any receiver not named Antonio Brown over the last month. But those snaps aren’t given, they’re earned, and at today’s press conference, Mike Tomlin talked about the job the rookie has done.
“He’s working,” Tomlin told reporters. “He’s getting better. He’s answering the bell in terms of the task we’re giving him. We’re thoughtful about the task we give him because he’s young. And he’s doing an acceptable job.”
Tomlin was asked about the details a receiver has to pay attention to in order to succeed and see more of the field.
“Just play a complete game. Blocking assignment, have detail in those blocking assignments. Be a contributor not only in the passing game but the running game whether you have the ball or don’t have the ball. Be a complete football player. Be a football player first, as we like to say.”
Smith-Schuster ranks second in the NFL among rookie receivers in receptions and yards, only trailing Cooper Kupp in both categories. And he’s tied for the rookie lead in touchdowns with a pair. He’s made just as much of an impact in the run game with a couple devastating blocks but also his effort and consistently to crack safeties creeping down to stop Le’Veon Bell and the run game.
There are silly and serious sides to Smith-Schuster that’s endeared himself to the coaching staff and fans. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler had a good perspective of it days ago, spending some time with the receiver. In one clip, he’s in his chef’s hat, making Kool-Aid (he’s also riding his bike around Pittsburgh today, be sure to say hello). In another, he points to his white board of chores and bible verses.
It’s been a big change in Smith-Schuster’s life. Living on the West Coast his whole life, coming over to Pittsburgh, all at an age where most people are still sleeping off their college hangover. Instead, it’s opposing defensive backs who are waking up with headaches.
JuJu Smith-Schuster murdered Harrison Smith. pic.twitter.com/SOkEiNOMNb
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) September 17, 2017