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: Somebody will finally get the Steelers’ second 100-yard receiving game of the season.
Explanation: It’s actually somewhat quite remarkable that the Steelers—the undefeated, 8-0 Steelers—have made it halfway through the most offensively prolific season in NFL history while only having had one single 100-yard receiving game on the year, which came from Chase Claypool in week four.
JuJu Smith-Schuster seems to be knocking on the door of having a big game, and each week it seems as though Ben Roethlisberger is turning to him more and more, as they rely more heavily on the 01 personnel package and he falls back to the one target that he knows for years that he can trust.
Smith-Schuster has caught nearly 80 percent of the passes thrown his way, but he rarely gets targeted enough to vie for a 100-yard game, having only been targeted more than eight times once in a game. And this would be the contest to do it.
The Cincinnati Bengals are really banged up at the cornerback position right now. Especially if they go into the 01 and can get multiple slot defenders on the field, he can really work. But with the overall weakness of Cincinnati’s defense right now, it really wouldn’t be surprising if Claypool or Diontae Johnson were to hit 100 either.
One of the reasons that the Steelers have had so few ‘big’ individual games from their receiving options is because of the fact that they have numerous receiving options. Roethlisberger isn’t having his most prolific or efficient season (he’s actually trending to throw for under 4000 yards, which almost feels unheard of at this stage for a franchise quarterback starting 16 games), and that is a factor as well, but the biggest thing is the fact that they’re spreading the ball around.
The Steelers have five different players who have been targeted 30-plus times, and four who have been targeted 40-plus times. Nobody has been targeted even 60 times. When you have that tight of a distribution ratio, you’re going to have leveled-off numbers spread out through the group. It works out to a strong whole, but with few individual statistically impressive performances.