Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is skilled at a good many things when it comes to playing football. That is why he became the youngest player in NFL history to record 150 receptions or 2000 yards in his career last season in his second year in the league.
Apparently, the one thing he has been better than literally everybody at over the course of the past two years has been running go routes. According to Pro Football Focus, he posted the highest passer rating in the NFL among qualified receivers (a minimum of 10 targets on the route) on go routes during the 2018 season.
“Smith-Schuster caught 5-of-12 targets on go routes this past season for 247 yards and two touchdowns”, wrote William Moy. “A 41.7 completion percentage might seem low, but it was the second-highest completion percentage any qualifying receiver earned on the route in 2018”.
Go routes, which are the aptly-named vertical routes you see on playgrounds all across the country, will necessarily have a lower completion percentage than just about any other route on average because of the degree of difficulty involved in execution the play against a defense.
Smith-Schuster posted a passer rating of 128.5 on go routes in 2018. Second place was—Antonio Brown, who posted a passer rating of 121.5. They were the only two qualifying receivers in 2018 that posted a passer rating when targeted on go routes north of 110.
Last season, Ben Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster paired for a perfect passer rating when targeted on go routes. He caught eight of 10 targets on go routes for 336 yards and two touchdowns that season. It’s worth noting that Smith-Schuster’s 2018 passer rating on go routes would only have ranked fifth in 2017.
“Since we started tracking route data, Smith-Schuster is the only receiver with at least 10 targets in a regular season to field a perfect WR Rating on go routes, and he is the only receiver to grade positively on at least 80.0 percent of his go route targets”, Mark Chichester wrote last summer of his 2017 showing. “In addition, the rookie receiver was the first player to tally a catch rate of at least 80.0 percent on go routes while converting 80.0 percent of his go route targets for either a first down or a touchdown”.
So for his career, he has caught 13 of 22 targets on go routes for 583 yards and four touchdowns. That’s not bad at all for a player who isn’t known for his long speed and who has spent the majority of his time working from the slot.