Training camp has picked up steadily over the last week and one major storyline that is emerging is the chemistry between returning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his wide receivers. Chase Claypool has made a lot of noise early and eyes are all on Diontae Johnson and James Washington as they try to build a rapport with Roethlisberger. While all these receivers will look to build a connection with their quarterback, do not forget about one receiver who already has a pretty good relationship with Roethlisberger.
There is not a receiver in the room that has more on the line than JuJu Smith-Schuster yet he seems like the odd man out as other young receivers are emerging very quickly. A down year in 2019 is the main reason for that as the 23-year old receiver struggled due to injuries and subpar quarterback play. Now, entering a contract year, Smith-Schuster will need to put his best foot forward. Luckily, for him, his chemistry with his quarterback could propel him into having a major bounce back year.
Smith-Schuster has had the benefit of having Roethlisberger as his quarterback for majority of his first three seasons in the NFL and he has accomplished a ton during this time. The fourth-year receiver currently ranks eighth all time in receiving yards for players aged 23 or younger. The numbers look great on the surface and thanks to some terrific charting from Matthew Marczi and Alex Kozora, a deeper examination into the chemistry between Smith-Schuster and Roethlisberger is possible.
I have sorted through all the pass attempts between the duo over the last three seasons and sorted them out. The results are remarkable.
Roethlisberger has found a great amount of success when targeting Smith-Schuster over the last three seasons as the numbers speak for themselves. Their chemistry in 2017 was one of the top connections in the NFL as the duo connected for six touchdowns and zero interceptions. The following year also saw a passer rating near 100.0 while 2019 was unfortunately cut short due to Roethlisberger’s elbow injury. Altogether, Roethlisberger has completed 68.6-percent of his targets that went towards his fourth-year receiver, with 13 touchdowns and a 108.6 passer rating.
While Smith-Schuster struggled last season with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges under center, he should expect a noticeable bounce back with Roethlisberger this year and the numbers back that up. The quarterback and receiver have had a strong bond on the football field as the two have been in sync over the last three years. All that is left now is to reconnect the already established connection.
With a great relationship already in place, do not be surprised to see the duo pick right back up where they left off when the 2020 season rolls around. While all the other receivers may be picking up momentum as the month of August winds down, do not count out Smith-Schuster for he has one tool under his belt that none of the other receivers currently possess and that is chemistry with his franchise quarterback.