There’s no question the unexpected Week Four bye week for the Pittsburgh Steelers threw a monkey wrench into the team’s plans. But JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t bothered by the league rearranging their schedule.
“I think the rhythm is still there,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “You know, I think it’s nothing that we haven’t lost. I think it’s too early in our season for us to have an uncalled for bye week, but it is what it is.”
That’s a slightly more optimistic picture than what Ben Roethlisberger painted, giving a more-than-fair critic of the Steelers – again – getting the “short end of the stick.” But as Smith-Schuster saw it, there were positives to having last weekend off. That included getting healthier, ensuring the return of WR Diontae Johnson. Johnson suffered a concussion in Week 3’s win over the Houston Texans.
“Oh yeah. I mean, that’s good on our end. Obviously, having the Diontae out there, to make splash plays and that’s something that he’s always been doing. But even when he was out, you had guys who can fill in those spots. James Washington played excellent. He got the job done and what we needed to get done to win our game.”
It was Washington and Claypool stepping up in big ways with Johnson out. Claypool played a career high 61 offensive snaps, catching a game-clinching first down. Washington was peppered with seven targets, catching five, and like Claypool, recorded a crucial first down on the Steelers’ final drive. It’s been part of the team’s excellent four minute offense that’s been able to close out games. Smith-Schuster himself hasn’t had gaudy numbers sans a two-touchdown performance in the opener but he’s still the most reliable target on the team.
Fullback Derek Watt and safety Marcus Allen also have better chances of suiting up this weekend against the Eagles. Philadelphia’s dealing with injuries and poor play in the secondary, giving the chance for guys like Smith-Schuster and Johnson to feast on a wounded secondary.
As we wrote about last week, a Week Four bye is far from a death sentence. In 2005, the Steelers had such a bye on route to winning a Super Bowl, the first 6th seed to do so in NFL history. Put it this way. The challenge of playing thirteen straight games this season is nothing compared to the challenges the team faced a year ago, struggling to do anything without Ben Roethlisberger. Smith-Schuster is in the majority of playing a baker’s dozen with #7 than any length of time without him.