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: Even though he wasn’t very happy about the game being postponed, JuJu Smith-Schuster will now have an extra three days to rest his foot, which he injured on Sunday, before a big divisional showdown against the Baltimore Ravens.
While Smith-Schuster is coming off of his least productive game in more than a month—on his birthday no less—we all saw how important he was the last time the Steelers played the Ravens, so from that perspective, you can be glad that the game got postponed, which gives him more time to get his foot or ankle or toe or whatever else might be ailing him right, in time for the team’s next game.
A lot of fans have been throwing out suggestions that are, at best, incredibly unlikely and nigh impossible, that the league postponed the game in order to allow the Ravens to get some players back. In reality, it might be the Steelers who stand to benefit more.
In addition to Smith-Schuster, cornerback Joe Haden also checked out of Sunday’s game with a knee injury. You have tight end Vance McDonald coming off of Reserve/Covid-19, and he was symptomatic. He needs time to get his body back right and into football shape. More than just one practice.
And who knows? Maybe they get rookie lineman Kevin Dotson back as well, who himself is still on the Covid-19 List. The most significant here might be Haden, but getting Smith-Schuster closer to being healthy can be big in this game.
The Ravens have physical and aggressive cornerbacks who play tight coverage. There will be times when you need Smith-Schuster’s physical presence to move the ball. It’s not a coincidence that offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has been invoking Hines Ward in recent weeks when referring to his young veteran and the aspect that he brings.
In the four games leading into this past Sunday, he had 31 receptions for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He can make a difference whenever he is out there on the field—and it will help a lot if he is not hobbling around.