Thoughts: NFL Network Makes Bold Prediction for JuJu Smith-Schuster
Not everyone is worried about the bounce-back year JuJu Smith-Schuster needs to have. After finishing 2019 with 552 yards and three touchdowns, many need to see a third strong season before they're willing to allow the Steelers to hand him his next contract.
NFL.com's Adam Schein predicts fans have nothing to worry about. In his Nine Bold Predictions for the 2020 season, Schien says Smith-Schuster is in for a comeback year.
Smith-Schuster was dreadful last season, totaling just 552 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, injuries were a major factor for both him and Ben Roethlisberger. But JuJu fizzled in the spotlight of replacing Antonio Brown as the Steelers' WR1. I think he learned from it. And I am enamored with his amazing talent and work ethic. Not to mention, he's still just 23 years old.
Plus, Big Ben is back! And while I am quite skeptical about the prospect of a 38-year-old coming off elbow surgery staying healthy for 16 games -- and inherently, I wish Pittsburgh had improved its brutal backup quarterback situation -- there is no denying the chemistry the first-ballot Hall of Famer has with JuJu.
Oh, did I mention Smith-Schuster's in a contract year?
Schein also has Josh Jacobs winning the rushing title, Derwin James walking away with Defensive Player of the Year and Mike McCarthy leading the Dallas Cowboys to a postseason bye.
Thoughts: This surprises me. Not only has Schein been a constant skeptic of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he's gone as far as to block Steelers fans on Twitter.
Nothing about him screams 'faith in Pittsburgh', but apparently he's seen a bit of light.
I don't disagree with him, though. Since Smith-Schuster has come into this league he's been a force in the receiving game. People were critical of his role as a number one receiver once Antonio Brown left, but with so many weapons around him it's not like all the attention of the defense will be directed solely at him.
My belief is Smith-Schuster is heading back to his Ben Roethlisberger form. In 2019, he totaled 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. The year before that, 917 yards and seven touchdowns.
The proof is in the pudding - if Ben Roethlisberger is on the field, Smith-Schuster tends to shine. When Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges are playing, no one on the offense finds success.
This is all before you add the workouts he and James Conner have been posting all over social media.
Smith-Schuster's trainer, Corey Calliet, told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the wide receiver is in the best shape of his life.
"I feel like the body’s a machine,” Calliet said to Batko. "He’s already the machine. He’s already a Lamborghini, he’s already a Porsche. All I did was put a bigger motor in it. … I just had to take a kid who was not as in shape, not as big, not as toned, and that’s what I do, I like to create that — the body, the physique of it — but I also needed to give him a bigger motor."
Finally, he's working out at Roethlisberger's house. As teams try to find some sort of chemistry during a virtual offseason, Smith-Schuster and his quarterback are getting in field time.
All signs point to a comeback. A revenge tour if you will. And while it starts with Roethlisberger behind center, Smith-Schuster is going to ride a wave that'll bring him back to a Pro Bowl.