Fresh off of his first 100-yard game of the season, Pittsburgh Steelers third-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster once again fell a bit to the back burner today, limited to three receptions on just five targets, totaling a whopping 16 yards. 12 of those yards came on the first play of the game, which was the 200th reception of his career, making him the youngest player ever to reach that mark.
Coming off a 111-catch, 1426-yard season in 2018, and with the departure of Antonio Brown, it seemed as though the table was set for Smith-Schuster to pick up right where he left off and continue to put up big numbers, but that is clearly not happening this year. At the moment, he isn’t even on-pace to have a 1000-yard season.
But that’ll sit just fine with him as long as the Steelers keep winning, which they now finally are. They are riding a three-game winning streak, and are winners of four of their last five. He hasn’t done a lot in terms of offensive productivity in that five-game stretch, but he’s stayed positive, and his teammates and coaches have noticed.
Said quarterback Mason Rudolph, “he’s attracting a lot of flies. He attracting the middle-of-the-field player, the safety, and allowing us to get one-on-one shots down the field with other receivers. He made some plays for us early, extending that play on the naked (bootleg), physical play on the sideline to give us that extra 15”.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 3, 2019
“But when he’s not catching the ball, he understands the type of attention that he attracts”, he added, “and really does a good job of being a selfless player in those situations. He knows he’s taking two with him, he knows somewhere else we’re gonna have the opportunity to throw the ball”.
The Steelers were able to take a couple of shots down the field today, though only one of them connected, Rudolph finding his college teammate, James Washington, for a 40-yard catch. He also targeted Diontae Johnson deep on a play that drew a defensive pass interference call. Still, otherwise, he largely kept the ball close to the line of scrimmage. Jaylen Samuels was targeted 13 times for 13 catches, going for 73 yards.
The way the offense is schemed, and the way Rudolph is processing and making his decisions, has not been conducive to big numbers for a number one wide receiver. Smith-Schuster at least appears to be showing the composure of a number one guy who can handle that paucity of production, but we’ll see how that holds up as we go forward, especially if it comes in losses.