Everybody knows that 2020 is a big season for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the team’s former second-round draft pick out of USC, as not only is he coming off the worst year as a professional, he’s also now in the final year of his rookie contract. With the obvious known by all, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was on 105.9 The X Wednesday afternoon and was asked if he and the team expects more out of Smith-Schuster than they got last season.
“Yeah, I mean, JuJu, really, he wants to take that next step, too,” Colbert said. “And he was trying to do that last year and he, like James Conner, had a couple acute injuries that held him back. And then, again, when you’re not playing with a caliber quarterback like he had in Ben, when anybody goes from their starter to the backup, of course there’s a drop in talent, but there’s also a drop in familiarity. Because, you know, Ben has a certain comfort level and knows how to work with receivers. Both Mason and Devlin had to learn on the fly because they really didn’t work with that starting group too much, you know, preseason or preseason camp and they got thrown right into it.
“So, I think that was all a big part of it. But I’m sure JuJu wants to reestablish himself as a 100-catch receiver, that’s one of the best in the league, because really, in 2018 he was that guy. So, we’re hopeful he can be because, again, selfishly, if he is, that’ll help us. But, again, I think a big, big part of that will be having Ben available to him. I think JuJu would be a better receiver with Ben. I think James Conner will be a better running back when you have that quarterback who can constantly threaten you on every play.”
Last season, Smith-Schuster caught just 42 passes for 552 yards and three touchdowns in the 11.5 games that he played in. 30 of those catches for 443 yards and all three of his touchdowns came in the Steelers first seven games of the season. However, after the Steelers Monday night win against the Miami Dolphins, Smith-Schuster’s season went south. against the Cleveland Browns in Week 10, Smith-Schusteer bnot only suffred a concussion, but a knee injury as well and he would go on to miss the team’s next four games.
Upon Smith-Schuster’s return to action in Week 16 against the New York Jets, he didn’t have a great game, catching just two passes for 22 yards and being unable to come down with a late-game target his direction. Against the Baltimore Ravens in the regular season finale, Smith-Schuster managed a meaningless two receptions for 6 yards in that loss.
There’s been no sign so far this offseason that Smith-Schuster will ultimately sign an extension. If one does ultimately happen, it would likely take place during training camp or the final week of the preseason. If, however, Smith-Schuster doesn’t ultimately sign an extension between now and the start of the 2020 regular season, it will likely take a franchise tag next offseason to guarantee that he remains in Pittsburgh at least one more season.