2021 Offseason Questions: Would JuJu Being Outside More Be For The Betterment Of The Offense?

JuJu Smith-Schuster

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season is now in the books. It ended in spectacular fashion — though the wrong kind of spectacular — in a dismal postseason defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, sending them into an early offseason mode after going 12-4 in the regular season and winning the AFC North for the first time in three years.

Since then, they have lost several players in free agency who were key members of the offense and defense. Multiple starters retired, as well. They made few notable additions in free agency, and are banking on contributions on offense from their rookies, as well as perhaps a last ride for Ben Roethlisberger.

The only thing facing them now as they head into 2021 is more questions. Right now, they lack answers. They know that they have Roethlisberger for one more year, but was that even the right decision? How successful can Najee Harris be behind a questionable offensive line? What kind of changes can Matt Canada and Adrian Klemm bring to the offense? And how can the defense retain the status quo with the losses of Bud Dupree, Steven Nelson, and Mike Hilton?

These are the sorts of questions we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football is a year-round pastime and there are always questions to ask, though there is rarely a concrete answer. This is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all of their uncertainty.

Question: Would getting JuJu Smith-Schuster more snaps on the outside be to the betterment of the offense?

JuJu Smith-Schuster spoke to beat writers yesterday for the first time in a while, but he has done many interviews with other venues throughout the offseason. One of the common themes in his interviews, whenever he was actually talking about football, was his intent to garner more snaps on the outside this season after increasingly playing more and more out of the slot.

While his motivation is to improve his efficiency numbers in his quest to score a big contract next offseason, the question is fair as to whether or not it is in the team’s best interests to get JuJu more snaps on the outside, and what the ramifications to the offense would be of doing so.

The answers, perhaps, depends upon how those outside snaps are created. I think it’s fair to conjecture that Smith-Schuster is the team’s best slot receiver. From that perspective, it would behoove the team to play him there. But creatively moving he and others around to put them into ideal matchups seems preferable than having designated preference positions.

The other part of the equation is simply who else can play in the slot, and how they would perform. Smith-Schuster suggested that Ray-Ray McCloud is the second-best slot receiver on the team behind himself. That is not necessarily a comforting thought. The implication would seem to be that he might log time over Diontae Johnson or Chase Claypool, which doesn’t seem like the best option.

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