Kinkhabwala On Smith-Schuster: ‘He’s Getting A Ton Of Work In The Slot’

It might only be football in shorts season and thus in the grand scheme of things it might not mean too terribly much, but the early progress reports on Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, the team’s second-round draft pick this year out of USC, seem to be very favorable.

Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network was present for the Steelers Wednesday OTA practice and she filed a video report afterwards.

“He’s getting a ton of work in the slot right now,” Kinkhabwala said. “He talks about his physicality and I asked him today: How can you show how physical you are if all you’re doing is playing in shorts? He said, ‘I can make those tough catches over the middle.’ And from what we hear from his teammates, that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s being really dependable in the red-zone, he’s someone that Ben Roethlisberger is already creating some sort of rapport with.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Smith-Schuster working in the slot this offseason and it will be interesting to see if that trend ultimately continues when the Steelers start training camp in Latrobe. While there’s still currently no reason to think he’ll open the 2017 regular season as a starter, one can easily speculate that the Steelers would like to get him involved in the offense in some capacity sooner rather than later.

As for Smith-Schuster already building some sort a rapport with Ben Roethlisberger, I’m sure the quarterback will downplay that the next time he’s asked about the rookie’s offseason progress as he has a history of not wanting his young wide receivers to get a big head until they prove they can play in actual NFL game.

Kinkhabwala went on to say that Smith-Schuster indicated Wednesday that he likes to catch 240 balls from the Jugs machine after practice every day and that he does them in sets of 20, and that if he drops one, he restarts the set. Is this uncommon? Probably not and I imagine Smith-Schuster isn’t the only Steelers wide receiver working on the Jugs machine after practice.

Kinkhabwala went on to report on a few other things that Smith-Schuster likes to do after his daily on-the-field work is complete.

“Every day after practice he watches every play three times,” Kinkhabwala said. “He told us that he first watches the whole entire play, then he focuses in on the offense and then the third thing he does is watch exactly what Antonio Brown does.”

As for how much hyperbole is involved here, we don’t know. After all, these are the kinds of things one would hope to hear about a wide receiver that was drafted in the second-round during the offseason practices.

The Steelers will wrap up their annual OTA practices on Thursday and then their mandatory minicamp will follow next week. The coaches always like to remind us that these offseason practices are for instruction only and that no jobs are won or loss during this time of year. Smith-Schuster will obviously make the Steelers 53-man roster this year and we’ll have to wait and see how he performs during training camp when the team trades in their shorts for pads.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Ready to see JuJu put in work!

  • LucasY59

    should it be a surprise that Juju is taking snaps in the slot? where else would he get them… he isnt better than AB or Bryant so he’s not taking their snaps, so replacing Eli is the most obvious spot for him to take (and as a 2nd rd pick it should be expected that by the end of the season he is getting more snaps than Rogers IMO)

    It will take some time for S-S to replace Rogers as the main slot guy, but I could see a rotation between the 2 happening as early as week 1 (might not be a 50/50 split, but they will/should get the rookie on the field early)

    the only reason I would see to not have S-S in the slot is if they have AB lined up there (and have Bryant and Coates (or Hunter or DHB) on the outside, having two big fast deep threats outside would open up a lot of space for AB underneath (and obviously you arent taking AB off the field to get those Big guys in there, so having Brown line up inside is how it would work, and to do so they take Juju/Eli off the field)

  • Rob H

    Or…they run that play out of a four receiver set, where Ju Ju ca stay in, and either helps block for a play intended to spring AB, or he runs a seam route like a move TE would run, or…
    There’s a ton of things they could do out of 3 and four receiver sets (and not just passing the ball), which is why I wasn’t overly concerned when they released Green

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Slooooow news day.

  • Sam Clonch

    Money in the bank. You know who you are!

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    They really want that physical presence in the slot, and he’s the guy for it.

    I mean it sucks for Eli Rogers, the man had a really solid first season, but he isn’t blocking a safety, and that is enormous in Haley’s offense.

    I expect a lot of 4 WR sets, because with Brown, Bryant, Smith, Rogers and Coates we could exploit a lot of team’s CB depth and also block well for Le’Veon.

  • LucasY59

    yeah I think they run some 4 WR sets, but the majority will be 3,

    I think this O has the ability to be successful using a lot of different packages (from heavy with an extra OT “eligible” and a FB to a empty backfield with Bell lined up as a WR, and everything in between) really hope the O we have been waiting to see breakout finally does this season

  • Dorian James

    Man it’s this dude is that dedicated he’ll probably be great no matter where he plays

  • MC

    We need more receivers like this and not the “young money” type from here on.

  • walter

    i am not surprised if they wanted someone bigger to replace Eli when they drafted SS.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    steelers will need to buy a few more jugs machines to keep up with all the receivers.

  • Jason

    Any report by Aditi is questionable. Positively awful.

  • Mario Vignetti

    Aditi should be relegated to BleacherReport’s comment section!

  • BaconLovingInfidel

    Why? Not disagreeing, just curious.

  • BaconLovingInfidel

    I think her nickname is Kinky and she prefers to be referred to as such in the comments.

  • BaconLovingInfidel

    Ju-Ju’s head with Bryant’s talent would be a nice compromise.

  • mokhkw

    How does anyone make tough catches over the middle when it’s non-contact?

  • Jason

    Among other things she’s the one that erroneously reported that AB was pouting after a Td when he felt like he was open when it was actually a different play. She’s the typical report first get the facts later reporter that we get in the day of social media.

  • Mark

    We are a good team when we put the ball in Ben’s hands. We are a great team when we run the football with LeVeon. As long as we can run the football effectively we can get #7. Passing the football a majority of the time will not get us there. Running the football keeps their offense and our defense off the field.

  • Geoffrey Benedict

    That Young Money crew are all starters in the league, and have 8 Pro Bowls between them.

    I love what we are seeing of JuJu Smith, but I’d take another Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders or Mike Wallace in any draft.

  • Addison

    I’m most excited by him from this draft. Mainly because he’s a mystery to me.

  • Terrible Towlie

    JuJu Shu!

  • capehouse

    If I like what Aditi says, it’s the truth. If I don’t like what Aditi says, it’s fake news.

  • BaconLovingInfidel

    Aaah, ok. Thanks. I have noticed some contradictions of things she has reported now that you mention it.

  • Aj Gentile

    Didn’t jerricho cotchery play in the slot when he was with the Steelers?

  • WreckIess

    It’s a different situation in OTAs and Minicamp. The media isn’t allowed to report what they actually see, just what players have told them. So for her to report that he’s seen a ton of slot work, it means either he or someone on the team told her that.

  • PapaJuju

    He’ll be the guy by week one, bar none.

  • HiVul

    There is no sports journalist that doesn’t make mistakes, that’s life. She’s written some long form pieces about Lebeau that are better than most any one else. You tell me which Steelers beat writer you respect and I’ll tell you why a ton of other people think they suck.

    Great example for you, most people here love Bouchette but he accidentally reported that Martavis Bryant had a hip injury last month. Apparently he accidentally responded to the wrong question. Steelersdepot reported on it too, btw. Yet he gets a free pass by everyone here, makes no sense