The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.
The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.
How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?
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: Will JuJu Smith-Schuster put up Pro Bowl-level numbers in 2020 after a down year?
After breaking out at the age of 21 in 2018, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had a down season of considerable proportions last year, more or less failing to register even half of the numbers statistically that he put up in the previous season.
There are a number of factors involved in that, beginning with his transition to the featured receiver role, as he previously benefitted from defenses being drawn to Antonio Brown. Compound that with the very early loss of Ben Roethlisberger, and then injuries (even before the knee injury that cost him four games toward the end of the year), and you have a very pedestrian season from your supposed number on target. He did not lead the team in any category.
It’s entirely possible that Smith-Schuster never has the sort of season again like that which he put up in 2018, during which he caught 1111 passes for 1426 yards and seven touchdowns. In terms of team history, nobody other than Brown ever gained more receiving yards in a single season, and only one player other than Brown ever caught more passes—Hines Ward had one more, once, in his only 100-plus-catch season.
He could put up very good numbers again, of course, even better his previous numbers, especially in terms of touchdowns. A lot of things will have to go right in 2020, though, including and especially Roethlisberger’s health, perhaps.