3 reasons Steelers should let JuJu Smith-Schuster be an outside receiver

JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

JuJu has made it known he wants the Steelers to use him differently in 2021 

JuJu coming back to the Steelers is a blessing we won’t fully realize unless he leaves Pittsburgh after 2021. After setting the league on fire in his 2nd season(2018) his production has been significantly less the past two seasons. Some may say it is because AB is gone, or that he spends too much time on social media.

I think we should look no further than how he was used by Randy Fichtner. JuJu has found himself stuck in the slot for the vast majority of his snaps. In 2020 JuJu spent just over 74% of his snaps in the slot. He had 1010 snaps and 750 of them were spent in the slot while his average depth of target was a measly 5.5 yards. In other words, the Steelers were sending him no further than 6 yards upfield on his routes for most of the time and didn’t give him much opportunity to make some magic happen downfield.

JuJu has the makings of a threat downfield

JuJu holds the franchise record for the longest reception with not one but two 97 yard receiving touchdowns. There is a decent chance that record will never be broken. JuJu is good after the catch, but with his strength and stature, his true x-factor is the ability to outmuscle the vast majority of defensive backs in the NFL to make a combat catch. He can be a tremendous deep threat if the Steelers want him to be.

You might ask why we would do that with Chase Claypool on the roster. Well, Claypool’s ability as a deep threat in 2020 was heavily predicated on drawing pass interference calls. Claypool showed some issues tracking the deep ball and had a 5.5% drop rate compared to JuJu’s 2.3%. If Mapletron had not led the league in pass interference calls drawn, he would’ve had more drops on his resume. Claypool should be better in year 2, but JuJu is significantly more sure-handed heading into this season.