The Pittsburgh Steelers find that their 2017 season ended a bit prematurely, and are undergoing the exit meeting process a couple weeks sooner than they would have liked. Nevertheless, what must be done must be done, and we are now at the time of the year where we close the book on one season and look ahead to the next.
While we might not know all the details about what goes on between Head Coach Mike Tomlin and his players during these exit meetings, we do know how we would conduct those meetings if they were let up to us. So here are the Depot’s exit meetings for the Steelers’ roster following the 2016 season.
Player: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Position: Wide Receiver
Experience: 1 Year
I think it’s safe to say that by the end of the season, rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster was regarded as a starting wide receiver. While his final game in the postseason was largely unremarkable but for an uncalled hold on a fourth-down target, there is no denying that he lit up the league—and a few defenders—as a 20-year-old for most of it.
It took a few games, or really about half the season, before he was really established in his rookie. In fact, he was not even targeted in the season opener as he rotated out of the slot with Eli Rogers, who would end up being benched for a couple games after Week Three.
After seizing the slot position full-time, however, Smith-Schuster wasn’t done, as with Martavis Bryant struggling to rediscover his old form that he left behind prior to his year-long suspension served, the rookie was able to slide into the starting lineup.
Even while missing one game due to injury and another due to a kneejerk suspension decision, he still played not far from two thirds of the team’s offensive snaps, and he ended up with 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. All of those numbers rank in the top five for rookies in franchise history, while the yardage is the most.
At over six feet and with some bulk to it, Smith-Schuster is also a physical presence who even at times is lined up in a tight end’s position, and is used actively as a blocking option in the running game, as Harrison Smith, the Vikings’ All-Pro safety, found out.
Aside from all that, he also spent the year winning over a city that was more than ready to fall in love with him. from jumping into the ocean after being drafted to having his bike stolen, laying out Vontaze Burfict and adopting a dog, rejecting a porn star and, finally, getting owned by his mom, Smith-Schuster has unquestionably endeared himself to the public.
His on-field production, make no mistake, is a big part of that. if he struggles, he’ll be booed as much as anybody. But he looks to have a promising future ahead of him, and should give the Steelers their best chance at two 1000-yard receivers since 2009.