Can JuJu Smith-Schuster Replace Brown as the No.1 Target in Pittsburgh?
After blossoming into one of the NFL’s brightest young stars over his first two years in the league, Pittsburg Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will now be counted on as the team’s primary playmaker from the receiver position following the team’s trade with the Raiders that sent All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown to Oakland in exchange for a pair of mid-round picks. The third-year wideout flourished in his role as the team’s No.2 receiver as he was often able to take advantage of the double and sometimes triple coverage that opposing defenses would shade towards whatever side of the field that Brown lined up on. Since he benefited from consistently facing the opposing team’s second-best corner, he was able to beat single coverage with regularity and has been one of the team’s best and most consistent playmakers as well as one of the most fun-loving personalities in the league since the Pittsburgh selected him with the 62nd overall pick in the second round of the 2017 draft. He has amassed over 2,300 yards on 169 receptions and 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons and earned his first Pro Bowl bid after surpassing both the 1,000 yards and 100 catch thresholds with 1,426 yards on 111 receptions. Smith-Schuster was voted as the team’s Most Valuable Player by his fellow Steelers for his contributions on the field, response to adversity and for exhibiting exemplary character traits over the course of a drama-filled season that saw Pittsburgh in the headlines for finger pointing and publicly airing out their grievances with one another. While he has shined brightly in his role as Robin the boy wonder to Brown’s lead role as Batman, there are those that question whether or not he can assume the Dark Knight mantle in the Steel City and be the same uncoverable force that his predecessor was for the past decade. He possesses the requisite skill set to run the same routes and be utilized in the same fashion that Brown was as he can line up out wide and inside at the slot. The ability is there, and Smith-Schuster has publicly proclaimed via social media that he’s ready to be the No.1 target for Big Ben Roethlisberger in the team’ offense. He has no choice but to take the bull by the horns and come through in the clutch for his team week in and week out in the way that Brown has done since 2011 when he topped 1,000 yard mark for the first time and followed it up with 1,200 plus yard season in six of the last seven.