JuJu Smith-Schuster may be a young energy-bringer within the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, coming off an impressive rookie season in which he scored seven touchdowns on receptions with over 900 receiving yards while only playing in 14 games, but that doesn’t mean that he has lost sight of exactly where he’s situated within the hierarchy.
Nor is he unappreciative of where he is, being given the opportunity to work with some of the best players not just at their position, but in the game as a whole. Of particular note is the ability that he has in front of him to train with and learn from Antonio Brown, who despite being a perennial first-team All-Pro continues to push himself on a yearly basis to learn and improve.
Brown doesn’t put himself above anybody as a resource for improvement, always willing to learn something new no matter the source. We recently talked about his work with trainer David Robinson on the site just yesterday and how he has been learning to better control his feet and to fight in traffic and for contested passes. These are two areas in which he already excels, and yet he continues to put in extracurricular time.
“Watching him I learned that I can say wow 15 times in one day, and still say wow 15 times the next day”, Smith-Schuster said of working with Brown at practice. “The little things he taught me, I don’t even know how to explain it. Having AB around is awesome. It increases the level of competition every day”.
The tutelage of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is an obvious one as well. He is the leader not just of the offense, but of the team as a whole, and is a role that he has continued to embrace more and more with each passing season as he represents the old guard. Roethlisberger was drafted into a veteran-laden team that initially thrust him into the shadows of authority, but now he is the authority.
The young wide receiver’s reaction to the quarterback is a testament to that fact. “When you have a leader like him. You want to follow a leader”, he said. “He has done it. Look where he is at. Why not follow him?”.
As for himself, Smith-Schuster has his own goals to stay active this offseason. He told the team’s website that he wants to concentrate on improving his route-running. This is one facet of his game coming out of college, particularly with respect to working in the slot, that could have used improvement, though it was not a clear deficiency by any means a year ago.
“This offseason I want to work on running routes. That is huge for me. I am trying to get like AB. Trying to be lit”.
The 2018 season will be a big one for Smith-Schuster as he looks to cement himself into the starting lineup on a full-time basis, while also proving that he can stay ahead of whatever defenses throw at him after having had a season of tape to study.