JuJu Smith-Schuster might have been the last youthful personality to take the Pittsburgh Steelers by storm, doing so two years ago as we followed along with his adventures, from having his bicycle stolen, to getting his driver’s license, and coordinating touchdown celebrations as he puts up numbers and emerges as a starter.
And now we have Duck. Devlin Hodges. Rather than being a highly scouted underclassman prospect out of a major program, Hodges is an undersized FCS quarterback who didn’t even get an invitation to attend the Combine. Smith-Schuster was drafted in the second round. Hodges got a couple of invitations to rookie minicamps after going undrafted and unsigned.
Before season’s end, they hope to make an explosive duo, but Smith-Schuster has been sidelined for the majority of the time that Hodges has been on the field, including all of the past two games. Though he has been able to get out of the concussion protocol, he still has a knee injury that is holding him back, and from the sounds of it will keep him off the field for another game.
Not that that’s slowed him down at all in terms of his enthusiasm in watching his teammates have success. He’s been having a lot of fun seeing James Washington go off over the course of the past two weeks, and he know who’s been getting him the ball: Duck.
Speaking to reporters yesterday, Smith-Schuster said of Hodges, “I think he’s doing good. He’s a guy who’s been on the scene”. He was asked if he’s seen the ‘spark’ that Mike Tomlin said he provided, the wide receiver noted “his energy, his confidence in the huddle, he’s just this guy, a southern dude who just has a lot of fun. When he’s out there, he’s gonna throw the ball up, and we’ve just got to make our plays”.
Hodges has been throwing the ball up to Washington, and I’m sure Smith-Schuster is looking forward to being able to get on the field with him as well. While idle, he was passed over by the former for the team lead in receiving yards.
On the season, Smith-Schuster only has 38 receptions for 524 yards and three touchdowns. He is on pace to post career-low numbers in every category, though of course there are some major caveats and qualifiers in explaining all of that.
Nevertheless, it is fair to say that he has not been at his best this season, a year that was already a time of transition even before Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, with the departure from reality of Antonio Brown, who can now be seen running routes in Steelers gear, perhaps wishing he could still take back the past year.