3 reasons Steelers should let JuJu Smith-Schuster be an outside receiver
JuJu wasn’t a true number 1 receiver in 2020
JuJu is as talented as a “true number 1 receiver”, but we have to define that term. A number 1 receiver should do two things. First, he should be the guy that can be counted on in 3rd downs situations, the red zone, and in crunch time. Secondly, he needs to draw extra attention from opposing defenses.
With JuJu playing so close to the line of scrimmage there was no reason for him to truly be double-teamed in coverage. When Pittsburgh started throwing 60 times a game, opposing defenses would drop 9 guys in coverage. Defensive coordinators were getting away with leaving JuJu in 1 on 1 coverage giving defensive backs the responsibility of wrapping up #19 after the catch. A linebacker would be close and available(after being dropped back to defend the pass) to clean up the play resulting in an easy stop on a 4-yard reception, which we saw far too often throughout the end of 2020.
If JuJu is on the outside and being sent downfield, he will be double-teamed. Any good defensive coordinator in the league would probably keep a safety close to help contain him. Watch JuJu’s highlights from 2018, he just bullied Jalen Ramsey in man coverage throughout the span of an entire game against Jacksonville. Ramsey has been a top 3 corner in the league for multiple seasons and that was including 2018. The extra attention he would draw would open up the field for guys like Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and James Washington. Drawing the opposing safety towards the outside would let Eric Ebron with his speed get open down the seam against most linebackers in the NFL.