Don’t Let the Statistics Fool You; Juju Smith-Schuster is Still the Steelers Number 1 Weapon

Why are so many fans attacking Juju Smith-Schuster on social media today?

Maybe it’s because of fantasy football. Or maybe they just don’t understand that his role in the Steelers’ offense is so much more than just catching the football. Don’t focus on the statistics; they aren’t going to tell you the true story. Statistics be damned. Juju Smith-Schuster is still the number one weapon on this offense.

Remember the 2018 season, when Smith-Schuster had over 1400 yards receiving and jumped into the spotlight? Do you remember why he had such a huge year? It’s because of Antonio Brown and it became the reason Brown forced his way out of Pittsburgh a year later.

Antonio Brown, at the time, was one of the biggest weapons in the NFL. He was constantly getting double-teamed and the opposing defensive coordinators refused to let him beat them. That opened up the field for Juju to have the year he had. He outdid Brown that season in yards and receptions because teams were more willing to let him beat them than Brown.

Now the script has flipped in Pittsburgh. Brown is long-gone and the Steelers number-one receiver is now Smith-Schuster. Defensive coordinators are now concerned with not letting Juju beat them and they are making sure that the defense doesn’t give him anything easy. He consistently has safety help over the top on his routes and that opens the field up for Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and now Chase Claypool to make big plays.

Sure, fans and fantasy football players are going to point to his 4 receptions for 28 yards in Week 5 and say he had a bad game. Don’t forget that Chase Claypool’s huge day probably doesn’t happen, or at the very least isn’t as easy, if Juju isn’t on the field.

Claypool, on his third receiving touchdown of the day, was being covered by a linebacker. A linebacker. A damn linebacker. On a speedy receiver! How does that happen!? Oh yeah, because they had a corner with a safety over the top on Smith-Schuster. The defense was also worried about James Washington and Eric Ebron and they left a linebacker covering Claypool. That doesn’t happen, though, without the other players on the field.

An argument could be made that Smith-Schuster if he is indeed a number-one receiver, should be able to beat double-teams. And he does, consistently. The answer to that argument is simple. Why would Ben Roethlisberger ever force a throw into double coverage when he has a wide-receiver wide open across the middle in a one-on-one match-up with a linebacker? He wouldn’t, touchdown Claypool.

It’s sad to see fans attacking Smith-Schuster on Facebook and Twitter over his week 5 stats. Especially, when he has shown himself to be a true team player.

Smith-Schuster is the consummate pro. He is the polar-opposite of Antonio Brown. He cares about the team first, he blocks downfield like a madman and he isn’t worried about his own personal stats. It is his personality and team-first attitude that separates him from a player like Brown.

When Antonio Brown was pushed to second-fiddle in 2018 by Smith-Schuster he lost his mind and forced his way out of town. What is Smith-Schuster doing? Giving love to his fellow receivers and enjoying the win.

My rant is almost over, but please remember: Ability and spot on the depth chart does not always equal statistics. Juju Smith-Schuster may not have lit up the stat sheet in week 5 against the Eagles. He did, however, open up the field for other players to make plays and they stepped up.

It is clear who the number-one weapon in Pittsburgh is, and it is still Smith-Schuster. The biggest plus from Chase Claypool’s big day is that teams now have to worry about him as well, which in turn will open up more opportunities for Juju.

This is a team game, don’t forget that so easily. And if you were calling for a trade of Juju on Twitter or Facebook following this week’s game; shame on you. But I do hope this helps you understand the impact that he has on the game and is having on his fellow young receivers because both should not be easily overlooked.

 

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