JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Dirty Work His Most Impressive

It is an interesting development in light of the past few weeks that I find myself looking at Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s stat line from Thursday Night’s game and viewing it as something of a light workload.

Of course, he was coming off of consecutive games in which he had seven receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown followed by five receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown, so in comparison, four receptions for 47 yards seems like something of a minor role.

But it was within those receptions that the story is told. And I don’t think it’s a random coincidence that he got his first catch of the game on the second play. after hitting Antonio Brown for 12 on first down, Ben Roethlisberger connected with the 20-year-old for 11 from the outside, sitting down at the sticks against zone coverage.

During the game last night, I couldn’t help but be struck by memories of what Jerricho Cotchery looked like playing with Roethlisberger during his one season in a prominent role, during which he ended up setting a career-high in touchdown receptions with 10.

It compelled me to share that thought on Twitter, after which I was hastily reminded that the comparison I was meant to draw were to Hines Ward and Anquan Boldin. But something about the Cotchery comparison still sticks to me as well.

Cotchery, of course, did many of the same things as the aforementioned did. They are three players of a similar mold, though with varying degrees of productivity. But where Cotchery was ‘Old Money’ in the Steelers’ ‘Young Money Crew’ at receiver at the time, Smith-Schuster is something of a breath of fresh air, fresh of the stench of money altogether.

I see Smith-Schuster as a veteran Cotchery with a younger Cotchery’s athletic ability, and then some. It his mixture of natural talent and youth coupled with a wisdom and feel for the game beyond his years that makes him such a compelling study.

The rookie’s highlight play of the game, of course, came early in the second half. After Roethlisberger looked for him 31 yards down the field in the end zone against double coverage—he went up and made a play on the ball, to his credit—the offense eventually found itself in third and 11 at the 17.

Lined up isolated outside the numbers on the right side, Smith-Schuster ran the post and went up for a high pass that was thrown behind him, grabbing the ball with two powerful mitts, taking a hard lick from behind courtesy of Jonathan Cyprien. In spite of his body contorting slightly backward, he held on, setting up first and goal.

That is the play that the fan base should really be excited about, I think, even more so than the 97-yard touchdown from a few weeks ago. That is the sort of Cotchery play, the chain-moving, drive-extending work that the Steelers were looking for when they drafted him.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

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

  • Dennis Nevinsky

    He is almost like another TE out there.

  • DangZone

    How many blocks has he made that gave another receiver or running back extra yards? This kid is legit.

  • Lambert58

    Looks like the second coming of 86.

  • Sam Clonch

    Just had a great time reading the comments from right after the JJSS pick. Great stuff. Makes me incredibly grateful Colbert is the GM and not some of the comments on this site!

  • mhurk

    Most exciting Rookie season since Roethlisbergher,

  • John W.

    He was called for holding and/or offensive pass interference a few times early in the season, but he seems to have stopped doing that, so obviously he is learning.

  • pittsburghjoe

    The guy is just darn good. Cant wait to watch him through the maturation process. Steve Smith / Heinz / Anquan Boldin kinda guy. Love it. The character is what makes me like him most. I think his season is humbling the big, tall, fast mess (Martavius Limus Bryant Sweed MLBSII)

  • Michael Putman

    But bigger, probably faster and more athletic. Imagine the possibilities!

  • pittsburghjoe

    And has strong character. The drafted a talented leader in the bottom of the second. Thanks Kevin.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Yes. Lets give Kevin the Kudos. However…. No Ben… this whole thing falls apart. You need the franchise QB like you do breathing air. Everything else comes second… MB, LB…etc..

  • Sam Clonch

    True. Was Colbert’s handwriting on Ben’s draft card though, so I give home credit for that too! Wouldn’t mind them making a move somehow this off-season to address QB. I bet Ben retires if he gets #3.

  • Scunge

    Your physical, nasty blockers, even Hines Ward, have their fair share of penalties in terms of blocking. Hines was so brutal at blocking that eventually they made some rule changes because of him. I don’t view it as a negative that JuJu make get a penalty for blocking from time to time, it is almost expected.

  • Scunge

    I think that JuJu is more athletic and has higher upside than Cotchery/Boldin and to me why couldn’t he be more like a Deandre ‘Nuk” Hopkins? Both are 6’1″ 215, Hopkins ran a 4.57 at the combine, JuJu a 4.54, both were said to be not the biggest or fastest yet all they do is make plays and do the little things so well.

  • Mister Wirez

    How refreshing is the JuJu? He appears as tough as nails, catches almost anything that comes his way, and can lay a serious block when called upon..

    It’s great to have him with all the diva receivers and “young money’s” out there. This kid just goes about his job, doesn’t rock the boat, or go around shooting his mouth off. He doesn’t “smoke” or drink and everyone likes him. So far he’s a great role model for the youngsters too. I hope he’s around a long time! Oh, and his real name is John Smith -and there’s NOTHING flashy about a John Smith!

  • Talyn Scarbrough

    I refuse to know JuJu as John Smith… That’s some bad juju. Our JuJu is good juju lol.

  • Kevin Schwartz

    I like JuJu a lot, but I don’t know if he’s on Hopkins’s level. I consider Hopkins a top 5 receiver in the league. Not sure if JuJu has that upside.

  • Matt Manzo

    I agree! Plays like that are what I’m loving about him!

  • Aj Gentile

    I’ve said this for a while, that he reminds me of Jerricho Cotchery and what he did with the steelers.