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: Down
Reasoning: After a long stretch of arguably being the Steelers’ most consistent contributor on offense on a game-by-game basis, JuJu Smith-Schuster had a rough outing against the Cincinnati Bengals, and it just so happened to come at just about the worst possible time for himself personally.
It took a few years, and a few dances, but JuJu Smith-Schuster has officially gone from beloved to hated in Pittsburgh, with fans ready to root against him in another jersey next year, and cheering on his ‘getting his comeuppance’ after being unable to back up his social media ‘talk’ on Monday night.
In recent weeks, Smith-Schuster has been the subject of a minor controversy over a TikTok trend that has run through his profile. Before every game for a long stretch of the season, he has posted a short video of himself dancing at center field.
An increasing number of people, including opposing players, have picked up on these videos, and have found them disrespectful. In spite of this, he was resolute in saying that he would continue to be himself, and part of being himself is doing what he feels he has a right to do on social media.
But at the very least, if you’re going to talk the talk—or dance the dance—you have to back it up by walking the walk. That just comes with the territory. He didn’t do that against the Bengals, but the one Bengal who called his action disrespectful did. That would be safety Vonn Bell, who got a clean shot at him on a drag route near midfield, putting a hard hit on him just after the catch point, forcing a fumble.
That was one of just three catches for the fourth-year veteran on the day on six targets, totaling just 15 yards. At least in Buffalo, he caught six passes for 55 yards and a score. In Dallas, he went six for 93 and a score.
With the Steelers riding a three-game losing streak and there being enhanced focus on his pre-game ritual, it has now gotten to the point in which head coach Mike Tomlin has shifted from not caring to having no choice to care, telling reporters yesterday that, while he in no way believes the dancing is hindering their ability to win games, that he will be talking to the young wideout about it.
In the meantime, he can’t afford to have another unproductive game like that. And he certainly can’t fumble again, even if it was a bang-bang call.