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
Things are not looking great now for JuJu Smith-Schuster, or at the very least for his availability for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The third-year wide receiver suffered both a concussion and a knee injury on the same play after being sandwiched between multiple defenders—getting struck in the head twice—while attempting to make a catch in traffic.
While there seemed to be some optimism about Smith-Schuster, since he was able to participate in a public event shortly after Thursday’s game, and even spoke during the event (quoted by the team’s website), the fact that he is also dealing with a knee injury raises concerns about his ability to suit up in time for the Bengals.
His public appearance at least I took to be a good sign about his progress relative to the concussion that he suffered, and that is great news in and of itself, if that is really the case. I’m not exactly a neurological expert, of course, but I would assume there would be some restrictions if he were experiencing symptoms.
But a knee injury is a knee injury, and that could ultimately keep him off the field even if he does clear the concussion protocol this week. We should know more about his status from head coach Mike Tomlin in a few hours during his pre-game press conference, but based on reports, we should expect to hear him talk about practice availability being the team’s guide.
Statistically, he hasn’t been producing much over the past three games. He has just eight receptions in that span on 14 targets for 81 yards. It goes without saying that this offense—the team as a whole—needs a lot more from him than that.
Even if he does play against the Bengals, Smith-Schuster is still only on pace to record 61 catches this season for 838 yards for five touchdowns. It goes without saying that these are not the numbers of a number one receiving, even considering the quarterback situation.