Mike Tomlin, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, said it will take a collective effort for his team to fill in the void left by JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster was suspended for four games after he punched a man who made contact with him on social media.
The steelers 2020 is a team that has been struggling in recent years. They have been looking for a new head coach, and they have hired Mike Tomlin.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn’t searching for a single replacement for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who is set to have shoulder surgery on Wednesday and will be out for four months.
Instead, guys like James Washington and Ray-Ray McCloud will have to work together to fill the hole left by the fifth-year receiver, who will be put on injured reserve.
“When you speak about losing a player like JuJu and how he operates inside the structure of our offense, you typically talk about several guys stepping in in some shape or another,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “… We’re not attempting to take JuJu’s position. We’re simply trying to provide those who receive bigger responsibilities more opportunities.”
Through five weeks, Smith-Schuster had just 15 catches for 129 yards and a rushing score, ranking fourth on the Steelers in targets. Despite missing time due to a shoulder ailment last week and rib injuries against the Cincinnati Bengals, he has played 69 percent of offensive plays this season.
Ben Roethlisberger found Smith-Schuster, 24, to be a dependable target. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Roethlisberger has a 72 percent completion percentage when targeting Smith-Schuster since the start of last season, which is 10% higher than when targeting all other receivers. And, while the rest of the Steelers’ receiving corps battled to keep the ball, Smith-Schuster only had two drops since the start of the 2020 season, compared to 43 for his colleagues in the same time period.
Washington, McCloud, and Cody White, who were promoted from the practice squad before the Steelers’ Week 5 win over the Denver Broncos, are the first in line to take up Smith-on-field Schuster’s duties, joining Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool as the Steelers’ top receiving options.
Washington had requested a trade during the preseason because he was dissatisfied with his restricted role on the club, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, but he stayed with the Steelers despite his request. Washington has already had an increased role this season due to injuries to others in the receiving room, such as Claypool and Johnson, but Smith-injury Schuster’s provides him a more permanent spot.
“We have a lot of faith in James, and although the injury to JuJu is sad, it does provide James the chance to extend his role and accomplish some things that we all know he can do.”
With a groin issue, Washington missed the Broncos game, but Tomlin indicated Tuesday that he expected him to return to practice this week, with a “strong consideration” to play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.
Washington has nine catches for 99 yards in four outings this season, including a 30-yard grab against the Packers. In his limited plays throughout his career, Roethlisberger has demonstrated big-play potential, and a year ago, he pushed for Washington to get more on the field.
McCloud, the Steelers’ main return guy, will also be counted on to fill the void left by Smith-Schuster. It will also allow White, who spent time on the practice squad playing various positions resembling other teams’ greatest receiving threat, a chance to make a difference on his own offense.
“Ray-Ray carved out a place for himself as a return guy, but that’s his day job,” Tomlin said. “He’s been trying to improve as a receiver and has done an excellent job of it.” “For a man like Cody White, who has been battling and scraping for a chance to build the groundwork for what he thinks would be a successful career. And, over the last few weeks, he’s had a window due to the lack of availability of others.”
Tomlin also said he wouldn’t rule out going outside the organization for assistance in the receiving room, and the Steelers subsequently added veteran receiver Anthony Miller to their practice squad on Tuesday.
Miller was originally selected in the second round by the Chicago Bears in 2018, but was traded to the Houston Texans before the season, where he played in only two games. In his career, he has 139 receptions for 1,587 yards and 12 touchdowns.
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