I think most have by now forgotten their initial confusion, followed by angst, over the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers used a second-round draft pick on wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, a player about whom, no doubt, many did not know a lot about prior to the draft. I count myself among them.
The 20-year-old has already quite endeared himself to just about everybody, from the fans, to his coaches, to his teammates. He has seemingly been used, at least temporarily, as their number two wide receiver in recent weeks, if you go by snap counts, and has delivered both as a pass-catcher and as a blocker in the run game, the latter aspect really being the catalyst for his extensive opportunities on the field.
Recently, linebacker Vince Williams took to Twitter to give fans an opportunity to ask him questions about his teammates. He got one question about Smith-Schuster, the youngest player in the NFL, and his answer will probably not surprise you.
Ju Ju is easily the most refreshing teammate ever. It’s hard not to smile around him. He reminds me of how much fun football really is.
— Vincenzo Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) October 18, 2017
“JuJu”, he said, “is easily the most refreshing teammate ever. It’s hard not to smile around him. He reminds me of how much fun football really is”. And, coming from a guy like Williams, who certainly seems to enjoy his time on the field, that is really something.
Smith-Schuster is not the typical wide receiver that comes out of college, given how physically he plays, and how readily he embraces the ugly aspects of the game—which is something that I talked about a bit earlier today.
So no doubt he is refreshing not just for his teammates, but also for a lot of people around football. It’s not every wide receiver who gets just as excited about making a big block on a play as he is about making a key reception.
And he has done well in his role on offense—even if he has already drawn four penalties for various forms of holding, and another for illegal formation. He has made a couple of highlight-reel-worthy blocks, and he has made his contributions as a pass catcher, including two touchdowns, which remains tied for the team lead with Antonio Brown and Jesse James.
Smith-Schuster is so young that he can’t yet have a drink to celebrate a big game. He doesn’t even have a license yet to drive, though he said it’s beginning to get too cold up in Pittsburgh to be able to ride his bike to work, so he’s going to have to learn.
After receiving no targets in the season opener, he has averaged three receptions for nearly 40 yards per game. His biggest game was a four-catch, 48-yard game against the Jaguars, after a three-catch, 47-yard performance in a win against Baltimore the week before that included a touchdown. His early contributions have been refreshing to the fans as well.