The Pittsburgh Steelers had their share of drama last season with the Le'Veon Bell contract situation, Antonio Brown having issues with Ben Roethlisberger and just the overall play of the team. So, going into the offseason, you knew there were changes going to be made. One of them was definitely going to be Le'Veon Bell because that bridge had been burned on both sides, but the Antonio Brown flareup at the end of the season had him ready to leave, as he requested a trade from the team. He eventually got his wish, as he landed with the Oakland Raiders. Some fans in Steelers Nation were ready to see him leave, as they viewed his attitude as something detrimental to the team, while there were other factions of fans that felt the team needed. For those that felt the Steelers could move on, they were feeling that way because of JuJu Smith-Schuster and his production. In his second season in the NFL, Smith-Schuster had 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. His production was incredible, but now he enters territory he isn't familiar with in the NFL: being a number one receiver.
Smith-Schuster put up great numbers the last two seasons opposite Antonio Brown. Plenty thought he was the number one receiver on the team with how he was playing, but one thing people have to remember is he wasn't exactly drawing the number one cornerback of each team. No matter what numbers he put up last season, Antonio Brown was the number one wide receiver on Pittsburgh's team and that meant he drew the best defensive back the opposing team had to offer. It also meant coverages rotated to him on a regular basis. With him gone, Smith-Schuster will get that attention. The big thing to watch will be how he handles the higher skill level of number one corners that will be more than likely following him all over the field. Hopefully for Smith-Schuster he has been working on his releases as well as recognition of defenses. The coverage will look a little different towards him, but the key will be how easy or not he is able to identify the coverage and still get open. Another key will be how offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner schemes things on offense to get Smith-Schuster open.
Along with the added attention on the field, there will also be a difference media-wise for Smith-Schuster. While he did get attention for his celebrations in the endzone and his likeable personality, the pressure will be different as a number one receiver. It will be expected for him to make big plays each and every game whether he is being double-covered or not. So far in his career, he has been able to make play after play, but what happens when he has that moment where things don't go as smooth? It will be interesting to see his temperament when he is introduced to that type of situation. The media attention as a number one receiver is much greater than that of a guy that is considered "the other guy". And with that responsibility, comes great pressure. And like the saying goes, pressure can bust pipes or make diamonds.
Smith-Schuster is unquestionably a talented receiver, but this is new territory for him in the NFL. Plenty have succeeded moving from the number two to the number one receiver. Others have floundered in their move to the number one spot. While it may not seem like that big of a deal with him moving up one chair in the meeting room, it definitely can have a big change in how you are perceived and what is expected of you. All eyes will definitely be on JuJu Smith-Schuster this season.