Now that the 2020 regular season has begun, following a second consecutive season in which they failed to even reach the playoffs, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the season as it plays out. Who is making plays? Who is missing them? Who is losing snaps? Who is struggling to stay on the field?
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: JuJu Smith-Schuster posted a season-high in receiving yardage for a single game on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, catching six passes for 93 yards and his first touchdown since week three.
Even though a lot of fans appear to be ticked off at the 23-year-old right now because he had the audacity to want to stand in the middle of the Dallas Cowboys’ field and celebrate, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s play on the field continues to speak for itself over the course of the past month or so, as he has re-established himself as a go-to target for the crucial plays.
And he got more opportunities to make connections a bit down the field on Sunday than he has been getting in a season in which he has had a career-low average depth of target. He has three catches go for 20 yards or more, including a 31-yard touchdown strike that included more than 20 air yards.
In fact, all on one drive, he caught four passes for 80 yards and a crucial touchdown that cut the lead from 19-9 to 19-16 (following a blocked extra point attempt). After the game, I labeled it the ‘JuJu Drive’, as he accounted for every completed pass on the drive, which began from the 25-yard line but ultimately spanned 80 yards due to an offside penalty.
This is merely an emerging trend, as the fourth-year receiver now has 22 receptions for 245 yards over the past three games. If he actually kept that up over a full season, it would equate to 117 receptions for 1307 yards—and he is continuing his career-best reception rate, which is now at 78.9 percent on the season.
As fans continue more and more to turn on him (and even Chase Claypool already) because they object to the way that young people engage on social media and choose to promote themselves as a brand for the sake of their future and the future of their family, Smith-Schuster continues to put in the work during the week so that he can make the plays that need to be made on Sundays, a dichotomy of work-hard-play-hard that we have seen from him since he was just a 20-year-old rookie.