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 effective will JuJu Smith-Schuster be in his second game back from his knee injury?
The Steelers’ biggest problem this season has, unquestionably, been health. They have had a difficult time keeping some of their best and most important players on the field every week, and that has especially been the case lately with some of their most decorated skill position players.
While he managed to play about 80 percent of the snaps for the Steelers last week, Smith-Schuster had a minimal positive impact on the game. He was targeted just four times, catching two passes, albeit both for first downs. The two passes that he failed to catch, he arguably could have been caught, the second of the two essentially resulting in the end of the game, and a loss.
It was evident throughout the game that Smith-Schuster was not running at 100 percent, perhaps not just because of the state of his knee at the time, but also because of the amount of time that he has been off the field.
He has seemingly gone through a full week of practice without any issues this week, however, and he has dozens of snaps under his belt fresh from last week, so perhaps he will be more in the flow of the game, a crucial one that is pretty much a must-win. One can only hope.
It is, after all, potentially his last chance to make an impression until next year, and this is a season in which he has been under consistent criticism for both on- and off-field concerns, whether justified or not. Hauling in a few big passes will be good PR.