Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said on Tuesday that his evaluation of wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster isn’t based solely on statistics.
The 22-year old has been handed the tough role of filling in Antonio Brown’s shoes. And the numbers aren’t exactly inspiring so far. Smith-Schuster had 111 catches for 1,426 yards last season, while this season he has 66 catches for 918 yards this season.
Smith-Schuster had just three receptions for 16 yards against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, which was the third time in five games that he had three or fewer catches and was held under 20 yards.
Mike Tomlin thinks JuJu is above stats
“I have no issues with how he has handled himself in some of those matchups,” Tomlin said, in front of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
“Statistics might not tell the story because of a lot of things going on around him. I like his work. I like his professionalism. I like how he wins his one-on-ones. Hopefully, it’s a catalyst for us getting more traction and consistently moving the ball offensively.”
Steelers are currently second in the Northern Division, having a 3 game winning streak. If their form continues it may be easier to neglect personal stats. Should their fortunes change, though Juju Smith-Schuster will certainly be held responsible.
Of course, the loss of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to an elbow injury in the second game of the regular season should be taken into consideration, as well.
Smith-Schuster leads the Steelers with 33 catches, 459 yards, and three touchdown catches at the midpoint of the season. Separated over a 16-game schedule, his numbers would be on equal terms with his 2017 production, when he had 58 catches, 917 yards, and seven touchdowns.
The team is more important than individuals
“I’m a hungry guy. I want to help out the team as much as possible,” JuJu Smith-Schuster said on Sunday.
“At the end of the day, if we’re winning, you really can’t complain about that.”
And given their injury problems, the Steelers have been coping well. Even if that meant changing their playing style. As head coach Tomlin said:
“We’ve dealt with some unique circumstances in terms of player availability and it dictates that our personality is adjusted accordingly.”
“When we gain some traction in terms of player availability, maybe we can start talking about (getting the receivers more involved). Meanwhile, we better do what we can do with what we have available to us in an effort to win the game.”
image source: CBS Sports