Ben On JuJu’s Playing Time: ‘It Doesn’t Seem Like He’s Overwhelmed’

One of the popular topics along our comments section the past two weeks has seemingly been the workload for Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. The second-round pick, who is the youngest player on any team’s 53-man roster at just 20 years old, has played over 65 snaps over the course of the first two weeks of the season.

Many figured that he would be riding the bench in the early portions of the season, as other wide receivers drafted before him—Markus Wheaton, Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates—have done, but instead, the highest-drafted wide receiver since 2008 has been a steady presence on offense, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is fully on board with it.

During his weekly radio spot on 93.7 The Fan, the Steelers’ slinger talked about how Smith-Schuster has been performing for the offense during the first two games. While he did not see a target in the season opener, he caught three of four passes on Sunday for 16 yards, including a four-yard touchdown on a shovel pass.

Asked to assess his performance, Roethlisberger said, “I think that he’s getting better. His knowledge of the game, his knowledge of what he’s supposed to do—we put him in more difficult situations every week, more situations every week”.

“Coach asks me, ‘hey, are we doing too much, let me know if it seems like he’s a little confused, if he’s not processing things as fast’, and I don’t see any of it. I think that he’s processing it. It doesn’t seem like he’s overwhelmed. It’s not too much stuff”.

While he said that he was “super happy for him for grabbing his first touchdown”, however, he conceded that he was not about to get involved in the skill position players’ group celebration antics, rolling dice—and neither is David DeCastro.

Roethlisberger told the host that after Smith-Schuster scored his touchdown, DeCastro attempted to go over to him to celebrate, but the youngster was already gathering his teammates, in this instance Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell, to get in on the act. DeCastro basically shrugged and jogged away, though Ramon Foster did partake. Roethlisberger called it one of the funniest things he’s ever seen.

I think the key to what the quarterback said, however, is the fact that the Steelers are using him in many different situations, which is something that I plan to take a look at during a film period later this week, because they have lined him up as a literal tight end and even in the backfield.

That is certainly putting a lot on the plate of such a young player, and admittedly he has already drawn two holding penalties and garnered a false start, but Roethlisberger is happy to work with him, and has previously talked about his ability to create mismatched in the four-receiver sets gives the offense an advantage that they wouldn’t have with another player in that role.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • VaDave

    He’s a stud, and can’t wait to see the finished product. He’s something special. looking forward to your film study Matthew.

  • steelburg

    My take on juju is that I would have liked to see him start slow similar to some of the other guys like Wheaton, and Coates. I do think that we should use juju in the Red zone though. I think he does provide the mismatches there that Ben is talking about. But IMO juju has offered very little as far as getting open quickly and making himself a target for Ben. This maybe a situation where Ben is just going to have to trust juju and throw some jump balls up to him because getting separation won’t be his strong suit. I think them playing juju early will payoff later in the season. But I also think that cutting into Eli’s snaps the way they are now is hurting the offense in that short to intermediate area which is where Eli has thrived both last year and in the preseason this year.

  • VaDave

    Ward didn’t leave defenders in the dust much either. At the moment, Juju is a Lowe priority target. Right now they are making sure they have AB, Bell and Bryant clicking, and by the looks of what they did against a very good Viking defense are well on their way. Once they do, look for Juju to get a lot more opportunities where he doesn’t need to be beating defenders one on one.

  • francesco

    This is all well and good but where are the points on the scoreboard?

  • steelburg

    I agree you don’t have to leave defenders in the dust, but you do have to have the trust of the QB. Ben had that trust in Ward, it’s still early but so far I don’t see Ben trusting Juju enough IMO. I like the idea of slowly bring juju along. But I for one would like to see it start in the redzone let him master that and then add more to his plate. I think that we are taking a good WR in that short to intermediate area off the field in Rogers a guy who Ben has already built up good trust in.

  • Josh Gustad

    I remember being so confused/upset when he was drafted. After seeing the type of kid he is and the style of play he brings to the team, I couldn’t be happier.

  • Cullen James Riley

    I was more upset that we drafted him in the second round than I was about the longsnapper Colin Holba in the sixth. Turns out, in his limited snaps Ju-two is my favorite in this draft – not to take anything away from Tj Watt or any James Conner who have both also been awesome.

  • Josh Gustad

    I loooove me some JuJu, but don’t know that I can put him over TJ who might just be the steal of the 1st round.

  • ThatGuy

    Still 2-0.

  • Dorian James

    Once he cleans up the holding he is going to be a devastating blocker. I can’t remember who it was he put on his back but it was hilarious

  • steelburg

    Blocking is good and all but I want my WR to be known for catching the football, I could really careless about the blocking. It wouldn’t bother me at all if he just tried to run a guy off like he was running a route instead of blocking.

  • JS

    As a USC Trojan fan and Steeler fan I can not be happier with the choice of JuJu. The kid can play. He is a leader and a good guy. I am puzzled by those that want him as primarily a red zone target. JuJu needs some field to operate with in my view.

    JuJu is a character guy too. Steelers fans may not know that he was originally known at USC as JuJu Smith, but added the Shuster to his name to honor the step father that was a big influence on his life. He has the character to be a great Steeler, and at just 20 years old has many years ahead.

  • Michael Conrad

    Eli and JJSS are about the same in value right now. Rogers seems to have some people thinking he is good but if you look at some of his targets he was not on the same page as Ben and not ready for the throws. Could be getting up to speed and the O will improve.

    I think if JJSS shows any ability to get open which I’m not sure of right now he may take over the slot. A lot of plays are designed to get AB open and Ben is going to look at AB and MB first. I see two dogs one bone down the road in 11 personal.

    JJSS will get better but to me Rogers has reached his limit. A step slow ,lacks quickness and no YAK. Right now Rogers is clearly the better slot WR. One of them has to step up in four wides soon. They need a third dangerous receiver on the field to get the O moving and more consistent. I see Matthew’s buddy getting a look if four wides stalls out and they want to use four wides.

    JJSS will eat Rogers lunch if he shows the ability to get open and make himself available to Ben on plays.

    JJSS has a lot to process when in the game as a rookie. He has to understand if the play call is for a pass to AB or MB he needs to do his best to not take the play off and get open as a secondary receiver. His ability to find the open spots in coverage will take time.

  • Dorian James

    Can we agree both would be good?
    Remember Hines Ward;)

  • steelburg

    Definitely.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Roethlisberger was off-target on a few passes in Rogers’ direction through the first two games.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Hunter is clearly hogging them all in his sweatpants.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Unwillingness by wide receivers to actually participate in the blocking scheme is a major contributor to a lot of running games sucking.