The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: JuJu Smith-Schuster will see a career-high in targets in 2019.
Explanation: JuJu Smith-Schuster was already a full-time starter in 2018 and played in all 16 games, going to the Pro Bowl. He hauled in 111 receptions on 166 targets, and the team’s most-targeted player was just traded to the Oakland Raiders. But they also added more weapons to distribute the football.
There is no getting around the fact that the Steelers have 168 targets to distribute from last season that they will have to find new homes for in 2019. Or at least most of them. And that’s even considering that Antonio Brown only played in 15 games.
And the rest of the wide receivers? There’s not a ton of experience or history with Ben Roethlisberger to fall back on. James Washington still has so much more to prove, Donte Moncrief is a new face. And I think it’s fair to say neither Eli Rogers nor Ryan Switzer are going to load up on targets. Diontae Johnson is obviously the newest of all and helps the two aforementioned somewhat redundant.
Oh, and there’s the fact that Smith-Schuster is good, and still growing. Players get fed the ball when they do good things with it. He does good things.
At the same time, there is reason to believe that the Steelers are not going to throw the ball around as much this year. The expected loss of Brown this year, plus the unexpected absence of Bell last year, is reason enough to believe that the insane number of pass attempts last season are not going to be repeated, where they had two players get over 165 targets.
Coupled with the fact that there likely will be fewer targets overall on the offense, there is the fact that there should be more establishment of the supplementary targets this year. Washington got the third-most snaps among wide receivers last year, Switzer the fourth, but both of them were brand new and not really ready to contribute at that volume. Factor in both, and you get Smith-Schuster’s targets not exploding.