He has faced him three times before, so it won’t be anything new, but JuJu Smith-Schuster knows not to take Sunday’s matchup against Jalen Ramsey lightly. He did have some success working against the All-Pro cornerback; in their matchup a year ago, according to Pro Football Focus, he caught three passes on three targets for 37 yards.
But it’s never easy, and is a grind from snap to snap. With Antonio Brown no longer on the other side, he knows that he is going to see Ramsey all day, too, with the Los Angeles Rams, the Steelers’ next opponent.
“Double-teamed is difficult, obviously, because you’ve got a guy inside and out”, he told Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “but also going one-on-one, when you’re going against an elite corner, you want to respect it. You want to respect his game and his craft”.
Smith-Schuster has been dealing with double teams frequently throughout the 2019 season as he navigates the waters of being a true number one wide receiver for the first time. Combine that with the fact that the Steelers also lost Ben Roethlisberger for the year early in the season, and it’s really reflected in his number. He’s not even on pace for 1000 receiving yards.
So if anything, he’s looking forward to being covered one-on-one against Ramsey, and there appears to be mutual respect between the two. Smith-Schuster told Gorman that the last time they faced each other while he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars, “he didn’t really talk much, just kind of respected the game”.
Following a five-catch, 103-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Miami Dolphins, however, the third-year wide receiver is coming off of a very disappointing game in which he caught three passes on five targets for a mere 16 yards. One of the incompletions in his direction was a drop that led to an interception.
While he has previously expressed being content with his numbers provided that it coincides with the team winning, one can’t help but wonder how this is all really affecting the 22-year-old. He’s not going to openly express frustration over having only been targeted 51 times over the course of the first eight games of the season.
He has only been targeted more than seven times once in the six games since Roethlisberger went down, and that was the Miami game, in which he was targeted nine times. He has been held to under 20 receiving yards on three separate occasions.
If that is going to be the case against Ramsey, then it has to be because Diontae Johnson or James Washington are stepping up, or the running game is taking over, because it’s going to be quite hard to beat the Rams without their top playmaker…making plays.