It’s probably pretty difficult to follow the Pittsburgh Steelers and not be aware of the fact that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is a young, vibrant, colorful character. He more than any player on the team is in many ways like a kid with the way that he goes about living his life, celebrating having a good time, playing video games, using youthful lingo, and explaining young things to older people.
So it does feel kind of weird when he is talking about a rookie as though he’s a veteran, but of course, he is in a way. Even though he is only 21, even though he is only going into his second season, Smith-Schuster was already ahead of the game in terms of what he brought to the table in practice and in stadiums, a maturity and professionalism that belies his persona.
Last night, he was asked to share his thoughts on rookie wide receiver James Washington, who is actually older. Washington was in the process of having a big night, finishing the game with five catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns, the first 100-yard game in the preseason for the Steelers this year.
“He’s a young guy. James Washington, he’s an explosive guy”, Smith-Schuster said. “When the ball’s in the air he attacks it. As you can see, in the back of the end zone he caught that ball over the guy’s head, so I’m not surprised. These young guys are coming in fast and I’m excited to see what they can do during the season”.
He was referring to Washington’s first of two touchdown receptions on the night. Joshua Dobbs looked for him toward the back of the end zone on the right side with a defender trailing underneath him. The rookie went over the top of the cornerback and took the ball, securing it for the touchdown.
The second-round pick already has a handful of explosive plays under his belt through just two preseason games, and both he and Smith-Schuster have been productive so far. Each of them have two touchdowns apiece, the most by any player on the team.
The 21-year-old and the 22-year-old will both be integral pieces of the Steelers’ offense this season along with mainstay All-Pro Antonio Brown as the team’s top three targets in the passing game—at least at the wide receiver position.
Washington is essentially replacing Martavis Bryant in the offense, whom the team traded in exchange for a third-round pick back during the draft. After they pulled the trigger on making that trade, they elected to add the Oklahoma State wideout in the second round.
But he is just one of two young and budding stars for the team at the position, and they are already recognizing and acknowledging each other’s abilities. Just wait until they begin to harness the potential of what they can accomplish together.