The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the regular season, in which they entered with big aspirations, in spite of a tumultuous start to the offseason. Significant players were lost via trade and free agency, players who have helped shape the course of the franchise in recent years. We even now sit here without Ben Roethlisberger after just two games.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they have new starters. And quarterback was suddenly added to that list.
How will the season progress without Roethlisberger, behind Mason Rudolph, and now Devlin Hodges? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in games? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: How will JuJu Smith-Schuster impact the final two games of the season?
At least as we head into the final practice of the week, it’s looking as though wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is set to make his return after missing the past four games with a knee injury. The Steelers were able to go 3-1 without him, only coming up short on Sunday when the offense could manage just 10 points against the Buffalo Bills at home.
While the team has gotten at least one strong performance per game from either James Washington or Diontae Johnson, if not both, Smith-Schuster remains the most significant member of the wide receiving corps, and is still third in receiving yards despite the fact that he’s missed a quarter of the season.
Pittsburgh is in a position in which they have to win their final two games in order to ensure that they make it into the postseason following Sunday’s loss, so now would be as good a time as any to get their nominal number one receiver back on the field. Smith-Schuster, who had already bene playing through injuries, will at least offer the quarterback(s) another option in the passing game.
What sort of impact will he have, however? We already know that he was well off his marks from last season. Even accounting for the quarterback position, he seemed to be largely underwhelming given what we have seen from him in the past.
Now he hasn’t played in a month and is coming off a knee injury. How much will he even play initially? How many significant plays will he be able to make as they make their push to reach the postseason?