2020 Offseason Questions: Will Smith-Schuster Return To Pro Bowl Form?

Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster

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 return to Pro Bowl stature in 2020?

A series of unfortunate events and realities conspired to see JuJu Smith-Schuster’s production fall off a cliff during his third season in the NFL, coming off a breakout campaign the year before in which he put up some of the best numbers from the wide receiver position in franchise history.

Among players not named Antonio Brown, only one player had ever caught more than the 111 that Smith-Schuster brought in during the 2018 season, and none other than Brown gained more than his 1426 yards. Now, his seven touchdowns wasn’t a spectacular number, but it was certainly solid.

He didn’t come close to those numbers in 2019, but there were huge and very relevant reasons for that. For starters, he didn’t have Brown drawing double coverage for him anymore. Then the team lost Ben Roethlisberger for the year after just six quarters. He also dealt with injuries throughout the year, but a late-season knee injury cost him four full games, and limited him in others.

Brown is still gone, but we’ve seen James Washington and Diontae Johnson come along, and as they grow together, less emphasis should be placed individually on Smith-Schuster. Roethlisberger, in theory, should be back. And one can only hope that he will be healthy.

With all these considered, it seems inevitable that he will improve upon the previous season. But will it be enough to vault him back into the Pro Bowl discussion?

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