JuJu Smith-Schuster might not be out there on the field with his fellow wide receivers this week, but that doesn’t mean his presence won’t be felt. In fact, behind the scenes, while bitter Pittsburgh Steelers fans have been critiquing anything he does that isn’t explicitly geared toward getting healthier or improving as a football player, the third-year wide receiver has been working with the others to help them get on the field and make plays.
“I’m full-steam behind them, always helping them in meetings, trying to get them better on the field”, he told reporters yesterday when asked about comments from others about his contributions in meeting rooms and on the practice field. “I’m super excited to see them play. They’ve been snapping out there this whole week and just doing their job. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come with the guys we have on the field”.
The team has gotten a big game from one of their young wide receivers in each game that Smith-Schuster has missed. Against the Cincinnati Bengals, James Washington caught three passes for 98 yards and a 79-yard touchdown. A week later, he caught four passes for 111 yards and another score. On Sunday, it was Diontae Johnson with 163 all-purpose yards, including 60 receiving on six catches, among them a two-yard touchdown.
“He’s always in our ear giving us advice for running certain routes”, Washington told Chris Adamski this week about having Smith-Schuster around to help him out while he is not on the field inside of stadiums. “Things he’s played and positions. It’s all good. It helps us”.
Despite being the youngest of the three, Smith-Schuster is the most experienced. Having only just recently turned 23, he is in his third season and has 207 receptions for 2867 yards and 17 touchdowns to his name.
Washington was the next to get drafted, 60th overall, in 2018, two spots ahead of where Smith-Schuster was taken. He had a disappointing rookie season, but has been a big factor lately. He has 34 catches for 611 yards and three touchdowns on the year, most of that coming in the past month and a half.
Then there is the rookie Johnson. He leads the team in receptions with 42, now with 483 receiving yards, and his four touchdown receptions stands as the most on the team.
For the fourth straight week, the offense will rely upon them to step up on the field on Sundays. But, mostly when nobody is looking, they have been under the watchful eye of the team’s star receiver as he works his way back from a frustrating knee injury.