Although he ranks first on the team in receptions, and second in receiving yardage and touchdowns, a lot has been made about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster so far this season, especially as his numbers have decline seemingly with each successive week and as others such as rookie Chase Claypool have emerged.
It seems that the consensus topic that reporters ask players about after games in which a skill position player other than Smith-Schuster has a big game and he doesn’t is to ask the wide receiver’s teammates about his reaction to the success of others. Head coach Mike Tomlin? He’s amused.
“I really just think it’s funny that it’s noteworthy that we’re excited because teammates are scoring and having success”, he told reporters a short time ago during his pre-game press conference, following a game in which Smith-Schuster caught just two passes for six yards, but in which the offense put up 31 points. “I think that football is the ultimate team game, and JuJu is a quality example of that”.
“But we have a lot of guys that are quality examples of that”, he continued. “We shouldn’t let a few outliers globally in terms of guys that are not good team players, or the reporting of such events, capture the headlines. Largely, we have a lot of guys that are quality team players. They play and play to win, they play together, and when anybody does something well, everyone is usually pretty excited about it”.
While he did not make direct reference to any former players, anybody who has followed the team for more than a minute can draw their own connections to players such as, oh, I don’t know, perhaps former All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Even quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this season after games has seemed to allude to his past relationship with Brown on multiple occasions in terms of feeling the pressure to force the ball in his direction in order to appease their star skill position player.
This group of skill position players appears to lack that ego, but of course, they also lack the resume. Smith-Schuster put up numbers in his first two seasons, making the Pro Bowl in year two, but it’s been a while since he has had a big game.
Meanwhile, James Washington and Diontae Johnson are still very much in the process of proving themselves, and Claypool is just getting his career started—even if he is doing so rather successfully, trending toward a 1000-yard season with 10-plus scrimmage touchdowns.
This season, it has not mattered for the Steelers who is making plays. Smith-Schuster had a big game in the opener. Johnson had one in week two. Claypool in week five. Washington’s best game of the season came this Sunday. And all of them are happy for one another when they go off.