Film Room: JuJu Smith-Schuster Shows He’s No Rookie On TD

All I gotta say is, man, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a lot of fun to watch.

Not only for what he’s doing off the field. Though make no mistake, that is awesome. This 20 year old with a care-free attitude in spite of playing in one of the world’s biggest pressure cookers, the NFL. All the drama, all the noise, all stuff that would’ve been easy for a rookie to succumb to. But Smith-Schuster hasn’t let it bother him. He’s fought back and turned in his biggest game – and biggest play. A 97 yard touchdown, the longest pass in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history.

And Smith-Schuster’s impressive route running made it happen.

As Dave Bryan wrote about, Ben Roethlisberger said the coverage was 22 Man. That’s another term for 2 Man, meaning the defense is running with a two high look (two safeties) helping cover the outside receivers while the corners play man coverage. Essentially, the outside receivers are doubled. Which leaves the slot receiver in single coverage and the primary target.

Smith-Schuster is running a vertical downfield. But there’s nuance in his route running to create space. The best receiver is an open one, after all.

Off the snap, Smith-Schuster gives slot corner Quandre Diggs a slight inside release. That gets Diggs to jump inside. JuJu is selling the move with his whole body. Eyes, shoulders, hips, and feet. Anything else and the CB isn’t taking the bait.

As Diggs does that, Smith-Schuster plants and explodes upfield, attacking the corner’s outer half. That’s where the separation happens. Burst away at the top and JuJu does a great job of it. Diggs is late opening his hips and has to try to work and recover.

The corner now trailing. And with the safeties helping the corners over the top, the middle of the field is open. There is no safety support. Diggs isn’t able to get back in-phase (to the receiver’s inside hip) and Roethlisberger hits him in stride.

Coming out of college, many (myself included!) questioned how precise of a route runner he was. Especially knowing how much the Steelers wanted him to play in the slot, where route running trumps anything else. But he’s shown an advanced ability to create space working inside. He’s mature in personality and in player, a rare combo for a 20 year old.

Creating space as a receiver doesn’t mean you need to use 20 different nods and steps to get open. When you’re fluid, and when you commit to one move, and show explosiveness on your break, you’re going to create space. One look inside. Burst away. Finish the play. Be the hero.

This dude’s a lot of fun.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Conserv_58

    The best part of JuJu’s game was when the camera went to Martavis and seeing the look on his I, I, I, me, me, me, gots to get mines face.

  • KansasSteeler

    Do I remember the story correctly that Lynn Swann, USC – AD, told Steelers to check out Ju Ju? If so…that’s some good lookin’ out right there from 88!

  • The Tony

    For once I agree with Deion. There was no reason the camera crew needed to keep showing Bryant on the sidelines throughout the game.

  • The Tony

    You are remembering correctly. I do love watching JuJu

  • The Tony

    Last night JuJu really showed me a lot in his game. He used speed for separation, his route running looked polished and he used his strength to fight through some tackles. Aside from that egregious drop on third down, JuJu really surpassed my level of expectation for him. All that being said, I really can’t wait to get Bryant back on the field. I kept thinking well maybe if Bryant were in the game, the Rogers and DHB misses could have been different with different personnel on the field. Especially after the Rogers drop, I was livid. That was why you play your best players. An undisclosed fine to Bryant would have been sufficient.

  • John Noh

    That third down drop. Terrible. Cut him! 🙂

  • steelcityinny

    This guy is a bigger and faster version of Hines Ward. He is a rookie and only 20 so he is going to make mistakes.But I think his upside is great and he seems to fit the Steeler mold with his work ethic and personality.

  • treeher

    I was even more impressed that he outran Diggs and wasn’t caught by one of those deep safeties.

  • john bennett

    MB, if that wasn’t enough for you, call Josh Gordon and ask him how he’s doing with that get’s mine stuff. You have 2 weeks to get it together and start contributing to the teams success.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    He probably ran the fastest he has ever ran in his life!

  • StillersInThe6

    This was the most impressive part for me. The route was basic and I think exaggerated here – not many WRs with speed can’t torch a corner who’s essentially on an island and pressing at line (also that was just BRUTAL corner play there..). Ben threw a beautiful ball in stride. But was borderline shocked that he pulled away after the catch like that and never got caught.

  • srdan

    Agreed. This is totally media fueled. In my opinion, in the locker room, this is a non factor.

  • srdan

    No way is he faster than Ward. People easily forget Hines the first few years where he was making his way onto the roster through higher draft picks like Troy Edwards and so on. Hines was fast back then.

  • srdan

    All that extra walking this week with no bike got him in shape.

  • srdan

    That seems like a good story. But I’d be willing to bet that Lynn makes that phone call every year. This year it worked out.

  • srdan

    I like JuJu and his game…a lot. I think a better comparison is Boldin than Ward.

    However I think we need to stop packaging him and Martavis in the conversations(as does Martavis) as if they’re competing for one bone. They play different positions. And truth be told, if that was Martavis last night on that 97 yard TD, he would score too. If it was Martavis instead of Jesse James on the play before where ben sailed the ball, he woudln’t have caught it either. All I’m trying to say is to stop crapping on Martavis to praise JuJu. There are a lot of factors at play. And in my opinion Martavis is doing what he needs to stay on the field. The catches and TDs will come.

  • CountryClub

    I’d like to think that JuJu would remember that conversation he had with Ben. But, just in case he didn’t, Ben flat out pointed it out to him when they were up on the line.

  • Chris92021

    This play here gives me hope for several reasons:
    1. It shows we have an offensive weapon that must be game planned for that is not named Antonio Brown (currently the leading receiver in the league) and Le’Veon Bell (as of right now, the leading rusher in the league). 3 dangerous options on offense? Yes please.

    2. Some have wished that Eli Rogers would succeed but Rogers is nothing special. He is a nice kid but he isn’t especially fast nor does have the best hands (on display on the opening drive last night). As far as I am concerned, JuJu made Rogers irrelevant on the depth chart, not Bryant. Rogers might end up being a healthy inactive the rest of the way unless…

    3. Martavis Bryant…he must get motivated to get better as a receiver in this league. Sure, he is the most physically gifted player on our offense with his size, speed, athletic ability, and strength. However, that does not make him the best football player. How JuJu created separation with precise footwork is something Bryant in his 4th/3rd season in the league has not learned how to do just yet. Maybe instead of ranting on Instagram, Bryant can ask JuJu how to work to become a better receiver so he can help us and himself.

    I am ecstatic after last night. However, we should not dump on Bryant just yet. He can still help us. God knows the team has suffered enough injuries over the past few years to know that the depth always gets tested.

  • pittfan

    I agree about MB. His footwork can be clumsy at times and I think this is why we dont see him used in RZ. Back shoulder throws need nifty feet. And J2S2 does not go down with hand tackles around the ankles. Boy’s a beast.

  • EdJHJr

    Ok so after ripping into Ben all night, I have to wonder, which I have been, how well are they all getting open.

  • WilliamSekinger

    JuJu with the game speed to pull away from those safeties chasing him. What’s a combine time matter anyway?

  • srdan

    Great stuff.

    I’d just add to your first point that JuJu is able to attack that middle of the field where we have had nothing since Green left.

  • Chris92021

    Exactly right. Which is why I also can’t wait for McDonald to come back since he can help us out there as well.

  • Danielsteelstrong81

    Exactly Bryant and juju were celebrating smiling after the game. It’s a team sport no need to bash our players

  • Nathanael Dory

    Im with you on that. It was annoying ans unnecessary

  • Dan

    It was third down, with us backed up against our own goal line. Thowing 20+ yards down the field is too risky. Had we missed, we’ve have been punting from the back of the endzone. Should’ve thown a safe 9-yd out. Haley is an idiot.

  • Dan

    I think he had decent speed, but I don’t ever think he ever had elite speed. But he was the ultimate football player. Loved seeing him his rookie year on special teams coverage. I may just protest by double-parking at NFL stadiums until the injustice of him being passed over for the HOF is rectified.

  • francesco

    I don’t want to take anything away from JuJu but Lions secondary is suspect to put it mildly. I mean how do you leave the middle of the field that wide open. Two side by side war tankers could have streamed through that open middle.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    I was wrong about JuJu… glad we drafted him. I shat a brick when we took another wr over a cb.

  • Jones

    Pretty sure Ben saw the 2 high look the D gave them and changed the play – not sure what Haley has to do with that, other than the fact that you just don’t like him whether he’s involved in the call or not. We’re not completing many 9 yard passes, anyway. I like the fact that Ben and JuJu both saw the opportunity and took it as opposed for saying, “nah, too risky”, and throwing short of the sticks to AB or Bell.

  • Dan

    😉

  • 70’s Fan

    Probably not original, but did the killer bees just become the Jujubes?

  • Trevor

    Yeah and he also called those passes to Eli and DHB that they dropped… why are you throwing the ball down the field if the receiver might drop it? Idiotic.

  • Intense Camel

    DHB didn’t drop anything. That pass was awful.

  • SteelersGeek4Lyfe

    I was thinking the same thing

  • Trevor

    I think you missed the point of the comment haha, no part of it was serious. But I agree, not a good throw by Ben. Really wasn’t any reason to lead Hey-Bey that much, should have thrown it so he could slow up and pretty much get square considering how open he was. But I think “awful” is a little extreme, DHB touched the ball and I think he could have laid out for it and made the catch.

  • Nolrog

    In terms of 40 times, The Google said 4.55 for Hines and 4.54 for Juju.

  • WreckIess

    The biggest thing when it comes to Juju is that now he has to keep it going. We’ve been lacking a consistent second wideout for years now. We’ve seen big games from a lot of different wideouts(namely Rogers, Coates, and Wheaton) then the very next week? Nothing. He won’t keep this pace, but as long as he becomes someone who can be depended from week to week then he’s a success.

  • Intense Camel

    It was awful considering there was nobody within 15 feet of him and he flat out missed. He wasn’t being pressured so there’s no excuse.

  • Dan

    That must’ve hurt.

  • Dan

    Not Ben’s most accurate day/season. All QBs float one now and then, but Ben just doesn’t seem on top of his game.

  • mezzetin1

    *Deion. Christ…

  • mezzetin1

    That’s correct. Thanks Swanny!

  • mezzetin1

    Yeah. Like that defense. Steelers lose without it. Bad. Ass.

  • mezzetin1

    Prefer JuJu S-S.

  • mezzetin1

    Yet… Not yet.

  • mezzetin1

    Never cared for killer bees. Didn’t a Dolphin defense once boast that in the past? Think so.