Now that the regular season has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we have seen and are seeing over the course of the offseason and the regular season as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future. A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasoning. 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. Because of this, we can and will 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: The fifth-year wide receiver suffered a shoulder injury which we expect will be confirmed today as requiring surgery and likely to be season-ending, as he prepares for the open market again in March.
This is the obvious player to talk about today, unfortunately. While we are still waiting on official confirmation, it is believed that JuJu Smith-Schuster, the fifth-year wide receiver, suffered a shoulder injury during Sunday’s game that is believed to be season-ending and will require surgery.
Statistically, he has only put up 15 receptions on the season for 129 yards, and 138 yards from scrimmage, with one touchdown, but his impact, and the impact of his loss, goes beyond what can be measured on the stat sheet.
Especially considering how much the offense has struggled, at least during the first four weeks. As the offensive line progresses, no doubt there will be further opportunities for productivity and efficiency to come—but they won’t be coming Smith-Schuster’s way.
A physical slot presence amply capable of churning out yards after contact in spite of what his YPC figure might look like while practically running a running back route tree, Smith-Schuster has provided a needed edge to the offense, and particularly to the wide receiver room, that they’ll have to find a way to replace.
Guys like Chase Claypool and James Washington are capable of playing with physicality. Diontae Johnson is capable of playing with shiftiness. But it might be Pat Freiermuth who has the greatest responsibility—or is given the greatest responsibility—in replacing Smith-Schuster, and we saw that in his two-catch, seven-yard showing Sunday, with both catches converting on third and short.
Now the former Pro Bowler is looking toward what will likely be another disappointing free agency period. He took a bit less this offseason to stay in Pittsburgh in the hopes of having a productive year that would let him cash in come March. Now, with the injury, that certainly won’t happen the way he envisioned.