JuJu Smith-Schuster has accomplished some incredible feats in his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The wide receiver was able to make himself a house hold name while playing with the likes of superstars such as Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger. Smith-Schuster’s claim to fame was more than just a product than his always exciting social media presence, the wide receiver had arguably the greatest rookie season for a Steelers wide receiver. With 917 receiving yards, Smith-Schuster broke the franchise rookie record for most receiving yards in a season. Now after a gigantic debut, the only question is what does Smith-Schuster have in store for his sophomore year?
For starters, only ten receivers have had more receiving yards in their rookie seasons than Smith-Schuster and we can look to see how they produced in their sophomore year. Did they slump or continue building upon their breakout year?
Well, the results seem favorable as only three receivers failed to build upon their big rookie season and only two saw drop offs of 100 yards or more. The other seven managed to improve on their receiving totals. Now, that would be fine but circumstances must also be taken into consideration. Many, if not all of the receivers listed were expected to become the offense’s number one receiving option. Certainly, none of the other ten receivers had to play in an offense where they serve as secondary options to Brown and Bell.
It is not common for a Steelers rookie receiver to make a big debut but there have been a handful of others with debut seasons like Smith-Schuster. For a historical standpoint, the top ten Steelers rookie wide receiver seasons have been listed below and their sophomore production is also listed. Has the NFL’s recent trend of turning rookie success into sophomore success been just as kind to the Steelers over the years?
Right away, it is noticeable that the Steelers rookie results are a lot more exaggerated than the NFL’s trend. While none of the NFL’s best rookie receivers saw their totals increase or decrease by more than 300 yards, many of the Steelers rookies rose or declined sharply. The biggest jumpers are Mike Wallace and Louis Lipps, while the biggest free fallers such as Troy Edwards saw their yardage fall by almost 500 yards.
Now, knowing all that history has to offer, how can this be applied to Smith-Schuster’s sophomore production? Is the Steelers’ most vibrant receiver likely to continue the paths of Lipps or be in store or a free fall like Edwards. Barring any catastrophe, the truth likely lies somewhere in the middle. Being in an offense that runs through the quarterback, there is always going to be yardage for Smith-Schuster to claim but it is possible that defenses have made adjustments. He is now the Steelers’ established second receiving threat after Brown and the team is so confident in him that they shipped Martavis Bryant to Oakland.
With increased attention, the tale can go in one of two ways; Smith-Schuster continues to play his way into the spotlight as the Robin to Brown’s Batman or his increased attention leads to more opportunity for rookie receiver James Washington. Either way, you can expect that Smith-Schuster’s emergence as a legitimate house hold name will have beneficial effects on the team’s success as he approaches his sophomore year.