Youngster JuJu Smith-Schuster Standing Out Among Rookie WR Class

I don’t know if I can say this with accuracy, but it seemed to me that a good majority of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan base was less than enthusiastic about the team’s selection of JuJu Smith-Schuster, whom many likely had not even heard of previously, to add to what was considered at the time a very deep group at wide receiver.

Of course, the depth of that group has proven to be something less impressive than was hoped for, but already the 20-year-old—the youngest player in the NFL—has ingratiated himself to his coaches, his teammates, and most importantly, his quarterback, taking over a role as a starter.

I will be the first to admit that I was non-plussed over the addition of Smith-Schuster to a group that already included the returning Martavis Bryant and of course the five-game wonder that is Sammie Coates, not to mention Eli Rogers, Demarcus Ayers, the free agent addition in Justin Hunter, and, of course, the best wide receiver in the league.

I didn’t, admittedly, even know all that much about Smith-Schuster when he was drafted, and even though I quickly learned a lot about him to like, I did wonder how soon he would be able to contribute—and really, even, if he was for real.

But if you compare him to the other wide receivers from this draft class—it is favorable. With 12 receptions through five games for 160 yards and two touchdowns, including two explosive plays and 10 of his 12 receptions going for first downs or scores, he is in good company.

In fact, the only wide receiver from the rookie class who has produced more is Cooper Kupp, who despite not starting has been active from the get-go, in fact having his best statistical game in the opener with four receptions for 76 yards and a score.

The Yakima native has so far compiled 17 receptions for 230 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but outside of him, Smith-Schuster is largely in a class of his own. Trent Taylor with San Francisco is the only other rookie wide receiver with at least 10 receptions, adding 12 for 99 yards and one score.

And he was a first-rounder. First-round pick Corey Davis has seven receptions for 73 yards. Though other first-round wide receivers have been plagued with injuries, such as the Bengals’ John Ross.

It would also be disingenuous not to acknowledge the receiving contributions of many rookie running backs and tight ends. Christian McCaffery leads all rookies with 27 receptions and 237 yards. Evan Engram of the Giants has 19 receptions for 200 yards and a score. Kenny Golladay only has seven receptions, but for over 100 yards and two touchdowns.

Still, compared to how he was initially received by many, Smith-Schuster has certainly been a pleasant surprise. From his two penalties and no targets in the opener to his four receptions for 58 yards on Sunday, he has already grown on the field.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Grant Humphrey

    So far I’ve been impressed so far for what he’s been able to do as a rookie, can’t wait to see what he can develop into.


    Admittedly I wanted a ILB…Duke Riley is the player on the board I wanted in that slot.

    But…I did understand the pick, not a TE, but a bigger athletic body that can play in between the hash marks. There were a few plays I saw a LB defending him, other times a S…hopefully his role will continue to expand.

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    Pleasant surprise? No, I’m not surprised a player like JJSS is doing well and getting first downs. He’s the slot guy, that’s his job. What many fans were complaining about with the JJSS pick was that we were ignoring other glaring issues, like CB, S, TE, and another edge rusher. And in that case, I think the team missed the mark. We passed on Fabian Moreau, Dawuane Smoot, Tim Williams, Derek Rivers, Shaq Griffin, Jourdan Lewis, and several more, even after we picked Cam Sutton in the third.

    I still think it was a missed opportunity drafting JJSS, but that doesn’t mean I hope the kid doesn’t do well.

  • capehouse

    Definitely the biggest surprise of the year so far for me. I thought he’d be inactive. It’s been pretty obvious though that the Steelers are giving him every opportunity to succeed right out of the gate. If I’m not mistaken, I believe his 233 snaps, according to football outsiders, is the most among rookie WRs.

  • 太阳三联

    Clean up the penalties and he’s gonna be a Steeler for a long time. Hard not to like him.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    A WR who can block. Excellent. Would like to see Conner get some more carries as he hits the holes much quicker, providing a great change of pace. Give him some carries and you will definitely see him pop a big play eventually.

    JJSS is a keeper with great potential as a possession receiver that can block some guys and really help the run game.

  • The Tony

    Well we did pass on Rivers twice more since he was a 4th round pick

  • Justin Warrenfeltz

    Right, I know that. And I know he’s hurt right now so he wouldn’t have added much to the team this year. But still.

  • Steeler Nation!

    He has been as advertised. Physical guy as a blocker and receiver. Good hands and makes contested catches, very important since he isn’t real explosive and doesn’t create a lot of separation.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I think ben should be practicing with juju,McDonald,and Bryant all week because we’re going to need them to contribute more moving fwd

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    yeah I think the only thing that’s keeping him from being more Involved is the penalties

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    Agreed, would love to see what he can do on the outside! He put a nasty move on Jalen Ramsey but Hubbard let pressure and Ben had to step up missing his window.

  • nutty32

    Cooper Kupp dropped the winning TD last Sunday on the second to the last play of the game. JJSS slipped and caused an interception. At least JJSS is blocking and coming up with clever TD celebrations.

  • pittfan

    That pass to Kupp was uncatchable.

  • Silly Rabbit

    I think we are being conned. The team has 1 good running game, so they’ve thrown the rest. The WR corps is not nearly as good as we are being told. Ben must be able to hit Bryant over the top and stop the WR screens. They are playing into the defenses’ hands allowing the defense to just crowd the line. I recall one poorly thrown deep ball from Sunday. And AB getting all those targets even when double teamed shows how bad the rest are playing. Part of it is play calling, part of it is Ben’s deep accuracy.

  • gdeuce

    JuJu didn’t slip, his legs got tangled with the DB

  • Kevin Schwartz

    Yup, I like him, and thought in the last game that he was coming along nicely. Until Bryant becomes more reliable, I might argue that he’s the second best WR on the team (even if his potential isn’t as high as MB).

  • Hec

    I was surprise they picked a wideout on the second round period. They have not picked a receiver that early in the draft since…………..well, let’s not mention that guy! Let’s just hope he produces like the ones we just retired recently!

  • Steve

    Diagree – We need to run 75% of the time vrs the Chiefs.

  • MC

    Hines 2.0

  • nutty32

    certainly was a fastball but got both hands on it and in stride. 80% a drop.

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I said moving fwd and yeah your right we need to be running 75% of the time whoever we play and just let Ben manage the game I been pointed that out 3yrs ago and some depot fans thought I was crazy I wish Dave can pull it out the archive