And JuJu Smith-Schuster is well aware of it. He knows he’ll have so many more opportunities to make big plays with Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback and he knows the Chiefs give him his best shot to get back to his 2018 numbers, where he recorded 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns en route to his first and only Pro Bowl.
You can definitely hear the excitement in his voice as he talks about his transition from the Steelers to Chiefs.
But you can also hear the relief. The relief that he’s no longer playing in an offense tailored around the declining skills of future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger.
“Oh my gosh, I think I’ve ran more routes here than my previous offense,” Smith-Schuster told reporters Wednesday. “Being all over the field, being able to play inside/outside – that’s for everybody. You see MVS [Marquez Valdes-Scantling] playing inside/outside, you see Mecole [Hardman] playing inside/outside, [and] Skyy [Moore]. You have so many guys playing different positions, which is so nice, because we can move guys around.
“Today was the the first taste of what I have to show.”
Smith-Schuster, like any smart NFL player, is already seeing the advantages that come with the Chiefs’ versatility at receiver.
“[We are] able to spread the ball around and we are able to move guys all around the field and not stay in one spot and get double-teamed or covered on one side,” said Smith-Schuster.
Smith-Schuster was most definitely the Steelers slot receiver during his five years in Pittsburgh. Per Pro Football Focus, his slot/wide snap splits from 2021 to 2018 were 165/50, 720/201, 362/264, and 564/393. His target share out of the slot, going back from 2021 to 2018, was 52.7%, 82.4%, 55.9%, and 57.1%.
In regard to the amount of routes he ran in Pittsburgh, Smith-Schuster ran 359 routes through 12 games in 2019. That tied Deebo Samuel for 78th and Smith-Schuster’s average of 29 routes per game was well below the 38 routes per game that Curtis Samuel (the league leader in routes ran) averaged, per Sports Info Solutions.
No one is arguing against the fact the Steelers had an inefficient offense. And it wasn’t just 2021. 2020 featured a really bad unit, as well. Per Football Outsiders, the Steelers finished 25th in overall offensive DVOA in 2021 and 22nd in 2020. 2021 also saw Smith-Schuster playing in a new system for the first since 2018, which obviously had an effect to an extent, too.
Now, Smith-Schuster is on a team that finished 2020 second in overall offensive DVOA and third in 2021.
Smith-Schuster now has the foundation he needs to get back to being one of the NFL’s top receivers. And, he’s ready to show the NFL that he’s not just a slot receiver.
“At the end of the day, it’s going to show. Just because of the offense I’m in right now,” Smith-Schuster said when asked if he’ll be able to show that he’s an effective outside receiver. “I didn’t have to come in here and ask for anything. The playbook is meant for everyone to know everybody’s position and just play.”
So far, everything is off to a great start, too:
Incredible diving catch by JuJu Smith-Schuster pic.twitter.com/ImqTVJw0rF— KC Sports Network (@KCSportsNetwork) July 27, 2022
You can check out the full presser with Smith-Schuster, below:
Featured image via Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports