Smith-Schuster’s Maturation Likely Will Lead To Even Greater Versatility

Not that it was much of a secret at the time, but in the wake of his attention-grabbing block on Vikings Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith during Sunday’s game, Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley acknowledged on Thursday that the physical aspect that he is able to bring to the game is one of the reasons that they were interested in wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster.

When he talks about the block—and only because he keeps getting asked the questions—he simply says that it is part of his job. Evidently job descriptions for wide receivers can vary, since Mike Wallace clearly seems to think that his says nothing about blocking.

But of course, that is the mentality that he brings to the position, which is frankly pretty rare, and probably only becoming more so over the course of time as the game continues to evolve at the lower levels, where even the tight ends are becoming more like wide receivers and the wide receivers are becoming…less interested in being touched.

I am very curious to see how Smith-Schuster’s snap expenditure is divided as we get deeper and deeper into the season, as the coaching staff is certainly demonstrating a potential ambition to use him in a variety of ways that is not necessarily the norm for a wide receiver.

As I have already mentioned on a couple of occasions over the course of the past couple of days, the Steelers used Smith-Schuster in both running back and tight end alignments during Sunday’s game, and they also asked him to pull or to go in motion at the snap on a number of occasions.

Considering that he is a 20-year-old rookie who obviously still has a lot to learn, I think it is a fairly reasonable assumption that the team could envision expanding his role and versatility even further, likely logging even more snaps in a quasi-tight-end role.

They like his size and physicality as a slot option because of what he can bring to the table not just in the passing game, but also in the running game. If he is matched up against a small cornerback, then he can clearly out-muscle him as a blocker. If they should counter with a safety or a linebacker, he could beat them more easily in coverage.

There was another player later in that game on which the Steelers asked him to pull and Smith came crashing down the right side again, but this time he decided to avoid Smith-Schuster, which I think is pretty telling that a rookie could earn that modicum of respect off of basically one play.

Of course, he still has a lot more to prove. He so far has the same number of receptions as he does penalties—three apiece—but in the meantime, every little thing that he can contribute helps to not only keep him on the active roster, but in the game and logging time, gaining experience, which will serve well later on.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • NCSteel

    I like the “quasi-tight end” reference.
    Would love to see that implemented in third down situations.

  • Michael Mosgrove

    dhb needs to train him in special teams because we all know he aint going to be here next year.

  • Sam Clonch

    Can’t teach the kind of speed DHB has.

  • Michael Conrad

    Allen will take DHB spot next year. He looked very good on special teams last week.

  • pittfan

    What Mikey Wallace doesn’t give you but 2J2S does is second level blocking. That can turn a 6 yard run into a 60 yarder. I cant wait to see this guy clear out some LBers.

  • Hagen Rinde

    this pick will turn out to be a game changer. Really. The penalties don’t bother me right now. He’s a rookie. But I like what I see quite much. And he’s a baby still… lol..

  • Michael Mosgrove

    True but hey bey can teach juju how’s to run st plays.

  • Delboka

    Or the coaches can coach.

  • William Weaver

    I expect him to blow up one of the games soon. Maybe not Chicago but he going to shock a team. 7 catches for 130 yards and a TD I predict

  • renoir

    Hope he does not become a concussion waiting to happen…

  • Brenton deed

    Ermmm..: did Wallace ever give you first level blocking?

  • Gautama Om

    Youngest player in the draft i believe.

  • Gautama Om

    Yeah needs to play with controlled agression (i.e. play smart) and not get himself injured.

  • Aj Gentile

    He was