Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, and the roster heading into the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we head toward training camp.
Player: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Stock Value: Up
Just in general, of course, but also because he’s made it onto the field apparently for the first time during OTAs heading into the final week of practices. According to reporters, JuJu Smith-Schuster was not practicing during the first two weeks of OTAs, presumably because of some minor injury.
But as we talked about on the site here yesterday, he was spotted back on the field for the first time in the 2018 offseason. This ordinarily wouldn’t be that big of a deal for a starter to be missing some OTAs practices, but we are talking about a guy who is 21 and is entering his first full season as a starter.
Yes, he put in a great season during his rookie year, and I’m sure some of you have his stat line memorized the way I do: 58 catches. 917 receiving yards. Seven receiving touchdowns. Even a kick returned for a touchdown on top of it.
It’s great stuff. Really it is. But it doesn’t guarantee he will keep it up. And part of the reason that he was able to have success so early was because he put in the work all the time, every opportunity. He actually did have a couple of injuries during training camp and the preseason, even giving himself a concussion making a tackle after an interception, but he was a diligent worker whenever possible.
So yeah, it is a minor but certainly positive development that Smith-Schuster has made it back onto the field, even if just to get some work in heading into minicamp. Three practices until then, and then after minicamp is a long break before they report to Latrobe. That would have been a long wait if he didn’t make it back.
More broadly speaking, his stock is naturally trending upward. Nothing has happened to diminish his value. The team’s decision to trade Martavis Bryant obviously solidified his status as a full-time starter for the 2018 season. But now is the time that he goes about earning that status.