Thrust into the spotlight as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ #1 receiver, some in the national media wondered how JuJu Smith-Schuster would fare in that role. While that’s still an open question, we’re more than a month away from the first game, the special connection he has between Ben Roethlisberger is picking right up where it left off.
Smith-Schuster has been borderline uncoverable the three days he and Roethlisberger practiced together (Ben had the first day in pads off). Through those three days, here are JuJu’s numbers:
11 receptions (17 targets), 181 yards (16.4 YPC) 2 touchdowns
I know. It’s just camp. And none of this is surprising. Roethlisberger is a first ballot Hall of Famer, Smith-Schuster an emerging star. They should do well. It’s just worth taking a step back and realizing the connection that exists between the nearly 40 year old Ben and 22 year old JuJu. Personalities, backgrounds, hobbies, place in life couldn’t be any more different. But on the football field? They’re as good as it gets.
As the numbers suggest, the completions in camp haven’t just been quickly thrown speed outs for a couple yards. They’ve hooked for gains of 37, 38, and 48 yards already, perfectly thrown passes downfield that Smith-Schuster has finished.
Beyond that, Smith-Schuster has played like there’s something to prove. He’s been in there for every rep, not getting the day off even if he could probably take it without issue. The Steelers know who he is. He was as active and energetic as anyone in the stalk block drill against the defensive backs, driving rookie corner Justin Layne into the ground. He has the talent of a superstar with the mentality of an undrafted player.
JuJu’s done well to balance that line between having fun, being part of gender reveals, and work, showing up without much fanfare, telling reporters it was about the team, not himself. I didn’t particularly care about someone like Eli Rogers showing up with some flare but I can definitely appreciate JuJu’s mentality. And certainly appreciate the start he’s off to this year.