A week after scoring a touchdown and playing hide-and-seek in the end zone with teammate Le’Veon Bell, rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster continued his ascendance against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Before we jump into JuJu, let’s take a step back here. The Pittsburgh Steelers came into the 2017 NFL season with a stacked roster. Big Ben under center, Le’Veon Bell in the backfield, Antonio Brown manning the WR1 position and Martavis Bryant stretching the field across from him as the WR2. In a sense, the roster was supposed to be a Patriots-lite version of ‘pick-your-own-poison.’ The major difference being that Ben Roethlisberger is no Tom Brady and Coach Tomlin is not Coach Belichick.
Honing in on Martavis Bryant is where things get interesting. Bryant, for all intents and purposes, is a freak-of-nature athlete that has the skills to be one of the best wide receivers in the game. The problem is that his head’s not always in the game and he pushes the limits, whether it be repeatedly violating the league’s substance abuse policy or calling out his organization and teammates on social media. Simply put, Bryant’s immaturity has hindered not only his own career growth, but also the Pittsburgh Steelers ability to function as an elite team (as well as our fantasy teams). For this reason, Bryant has rarely been targeted throughout the season, benched, and now potentially in a position to be traded prior to the October 31st deadline.
This brings us back to rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster, who we’ll simply call JuJu from here on out because sooner or later we’re going to butcher his last name (…sorry JuJu, just keeping it real!). Until recently, JuJu’s been lightly sprinkled into Pittsburgh’s offense, averaging only four targets per game. Though JuJu’s targets have been meager, he’s always converted them into big plays, namely first downs and touchdowns. Long story short, JuJu’s been the most reliable weapon for Roethlisberger outside of both Bell and Brown. Additionally, what’s not to love about a guy who catches a touchdown and takes us back to kindergarten by playing hide-and-seek in the end zone.
Forward to week eight. Martavis Bryant was ruled a healthy scratch for the game against Detroit due to his continued antics, which gave JuJu the nod opposite of Antonio Brown. Let’s just say from there on, “That’s all she wrote!” JuJu didn’t disappoint. He caught 7-of-10 targets thrown in his direction to the tune of 193 total yards and a touchdown. While his first two catches went for 59 total yards, JuJu then ripped off a 97-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown. Remember, this is a 20-year old rookie! 20. Let that sink in.
For JuJu, this is the beginning of something special. Not only is he reliable, but the kid can flat out play. JuJu’s fantasy stock may seem high now, but it’ll only rise should the Steelers decide to part ways with Martavis Bryant. For fantasy purposes, make a bee-line to add JuJu to your roster! Though we all want Bryant to find his way and be a part of this pinball offense, when push comes to shove, we want to see JuJu do his dance and JuJu on that beat.