I was in the stands at Heinz Field on a warm, October day when JuJu Smith-Schuster took a handoff from Ben Roethlisberger. He was actually running in our direction as he turned the corner and lowered his shoulder for the collision with Denver’s Kareem Jackson. It was clear that something wasn’t right with Smith-Schuster as he lay mostly motionless on the grass. The group I was with immediately realized that if this was as bad as it looked then we may have just witnessed the end of JuJu’s career in Pittsburgh.
Some 13 weeks later, the idea that number 19 would suit up again in the Black and Gold seemed a dream at best. That all changed yesterday when it was announced that he was activated and would be playing in Kansas City. My gut feeling is that the Steelers wouldn’t activate him unless they had plans for him to see at least 20 snaps or more. The playoffs are no place for a “thanks JuJu, here’s 10 snaps” kind of thing.
What to Expect
The presence of Smith-Schuster immediately elevates the run blocking. He is the best blocking wide receiver in that room and may be one of the best in the NFL period. He will help at the point of attack and will also help downfield should Najee Harris get past the first and second levels.
As a receiver, he provides an extra security blanket for Ben Roethlisberger. He has always been a guy who helps move the sticks and is capable of breaking bigger plays downfield. He’s likely to take snaps away from Ray Ray McCloud but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss McCloud altogether. He’s made several big plays recently and isn’t likely to disappear.
Whether this is JuJu’s final appearance as a Pittsburgh Steeler won’t be known for some time. He’s a pending free agent as he was last year and I’m confident he wants to remain a Steeler. He found the market to be less than appealing last year which resulted in him staying in the Burgh for less money than he would have received In Baltimore or Kansas City.
The Steelers will have a lot of cap space compared to previous years but they’re already facing a decision with Diontae Johnson as well. There’s no doubt the majority of Steeler Nation would like JuJu to stay. As of right now I suggest we just enjoy this unexpected appearance and hope that it catapults an unexpected Super Bowl run.