Even though it might not seem like it based on the results, JuJu Smith-Schuster remains one of the central focal points of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. He does lead the team in receptions and receiving yards, and is in a tie for the most touchdown receptions. But his numbers in 2019 pale in comparison to those he put up in 2018.
Coming off of yet another ho-hum game, though, Smith-Schuster isn’t showing much frustration with his limited opportunities, perhaps in part because he knows he hasn’t always been making the most of the ones he’s gotten, but most especially because they’re coming in wins.
Others, meanwhile, are having themselves some games. Since Smith-Schuster 103-yard, one-touchdown showing against the Miami Dolphins, James Washington, for example, has put together a career-best run. He had four catches for 69 yards against the Indianapolis Colts, both career highs that he proceeded to break last night, totaling six receptions for 90 yards and his first touchdown of the year (and second of his career).
Diontae Johnson also caught four passes for 64 yards, and in the Dolphins game, had five catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Like Smith-Schuster, he is tied for the team lead with three receiving touchdowns, which Vance McDonald also has.
When asked about what was working on the evening about his connection with Washington, quarterback Mason Rudolph said, “doubling JuJu. He knows he’s gonna attract that kind of attention, those kind of flies going into the game”:
We understand that someone else has got to step up. Diontae Johnson’s been doing it all year for us and James has been coming along the last couple games and making some big-time conversion catches. I think that allows us to have more threats at the receiver position and maybe not allow them to go an double JuJu going forward. They understand that Diontae, Vance, and James, those guys make a lot of plays for us, and if you’re gonna take two and cover somebody, you better make sure that it’s tight on the other end. I think that’s gonna help get the ball into 19’s hands, which is at the top of my to-do list every week.
Smith-Schuster put up 111 receptions for 1426 yards lats season. Through nine games, he id currently not even on pace to reach 1000 receiving yards. Of course, it’s not like Ben Roethlisberger is out there throwing him the ball, but there’s also the Antonio Brown factor.
There are those out there wondering which is the bigger factor, and truth be told, people are going to see what they want to see. All I know is that everybody needs to start making their plays consistently, because none of them did last night, the defense spotting them the win in this one.