Now that training camp is underway, and the roster for the offseason is close to finalized—though always fluid—it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen happen over the course of the past few months.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends, such as an accumulation of offseason activity. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the summer as we move forward.
Player: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Stock Value: Down
When it comes to playing the New England Patriots, the game plan is never necessarily to have your top wide receiver go off, because they’re a team that specifically works to take away their opponent’s number one target. Relatively speaking from a statistical perspective, he put up fair numbers given the circumstances. But that didn’t really come when it counted, and it’s hard to say he, or anyone else, made a difference.
After all, they put up a whopping three points.
All told, Smith-Schuster was targeted eight times, catching six passes totaling 78 yards. He had as many receptions as anybody else on either team for the most yards on the Steelers. But did it impact the game much at all?
His first reception came on the second offensive play of the game, catching a seven-yard pass on second and six as they tried to get him involved early. The next several touches would go to running backs before Ben Roethlisberger missed deep to Johnny Holton. It was arguably their most successful drive of the entire night with two first downs.
One play of note came late in the first half. Following another touchdown by the Patriots to go up 17-0 with four minutes to play, the Steelers quickly got into a third and 10, but Smith-Schuster came up with a 19-yard catch and run to beat Stephon Gilmore. It was his biggest play of the game, but the drive stalled on New England’s 47 on fourth and one.
He had another catch and run of 27 yards in the middle of the third quarter on a short pass to the left, but this was negated by an offensive pass interference penalty on Diontae Johnson. So scrub that from the books. He wouldn’t get involved again until the last play of the fourth quarter.
On second and 14, with 5:44 to play and a 33-3 deficit, he caught another short pass that he took for 26 yards. A few plays later, he drew a defensive pass interference penalty. But, again, none of this amounted to anything. He had his touches, but very little impact overall. Or exactly what the Patriots planned to do. He wasn’t even targeted deep once because of how he was played defensively.