The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: With a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, JuJu Smith-Schuster will show this season that he is capable of being a number one receiver.
Explanation: Even though the Steelers don’t necessarily need a ‘number one receiver’ when they appear to have several good ones, it’s rare that a team truly has two at the top who are equal, whom defenses respect equally and pay equal amount of attention to. Smith-Schuster was supposed to slide into that number one role last year, but circumstances prevented him from being very productive, including injuries of his own.
Recency bias is a damaging thing, and for the longest time, the most recent images of JuJu Smith-Schuster were negative. He missed four of the last six games of the 2019 season due to a knee injury, and looked nothing like his usual self in the final two coming back from that injury.
But we’ve seen his handiwork before in his first two seasons, especially in 2018. We’ve seen him win one-on-one on the outside against the likes of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Even in Week One last season, he beat J.C. Jackson of the New England Patriots. And then in the opener on Monday, he looked like the old JuJu. He was out-targeted by Johnson, but had a far larger impact, with two touchdowns. His rapport with Roethlisberger will be a defining characteristic of this season.
Being a number one receiver means not getting one-on-one matchups. It means getting double covered, being followed across the field, things like that. It means defenses game-planning to prevent you in particular from beating them.
He can make teams pay when their game plan is to stop somebody else, like he did against the Lions I believe a couple years back, when they specifically said they were selling out on stopping Antonio Brown. They’re not going to sell out to stop Diontae Johnson, but they’re not going to do it for Smith-Schuster, either, who is primarily a slot defender. His first game of the year was nice, but let’s see how it goes from here.