We reached out to our friends at Still Curtain to tell us more about what to expect from Juju Smith-Schuster this season for the KC Chiefs.
One of the most exciting offseason acquisitions for the Kansas City Chiefs this spring is going to be wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. One year after attempting to sign him the first time, the Chiefs landed their guy with a one-year deal loaded with incentives.
Smith-Schuster fills a void the Chiefs have been trying to fill for some time for a physical receiver to help take pressure off of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce without needing plays scripted for him. The Chiefs also reached out to Josh Reynolds, TY Hilton and others in free agency to no avail and even signed Josh Gordon hoping for an answer. Unfortunately, nothing worked out.
Smith-Schuster is hoping for a change in fortune himself after an injury-plagued year in which he was limited to five games and minimal impact. Through Week 5, Smith-Schuster had only 15 catches for 129 yards and was held without a score for the first time in his five-year career.
We asked our good friend Tommy Jagi, editor for Still Curtain and an expert on all things Steelers, to tell us more about Smith-Schuster’s departure from Pittsburgh and what to expect from him in his new environments.
Did Pittsburgh make any overtures to keep JuJu for another season?
By the sounds of it, the Steelers had decided to move in a different direction. They have had a very active free agency so far, but retaining the former Pro Bowl wide receiver didn’t seem to be high on their agenda. I would expect them to look for a wide receiver who fits the offense in the NFL Draft.
Were you surprised at how the market played out for him in terms of contract length and value?
I didn’t anticipate Smith-Schuster having a huge market this season, but I thought things could get thrown off a bit after Christian Kirk signed a massive new deal with the Jaguars. JuJu was coming off a season in which he was on pace for fewer than 500 yards on a 17-game schedule prior to his injury in Week 5. Last year, we saw the market for Smith-Schuster dry up relatively quickly, and he ultimately returned to Pittsburgh.
If the Chiefs use Smith-Schuster to his full potential, it will be because they asked him to…?
Catch the ball in space across the middle. My favorite trait JuJu possesses is his physicality after the catch. I think if the Chiefs use him as an underneath option from the slot, he’s in his element. Put him in drag routes and let him be violent with the ball in his hands. Smith-Schuster has never been a great route runner or separator before the catch, but he’s excellent at the catch point and tough to bring down. Just give him some space to work with.
Is there anything the Chiefs should never ask him to do?
JuJu is a well-rounded player overall. I have played both slot receiver and ‘Z’ receiver for the Steelers. I think he’s a guy you can move around the formation, but I think he’s best when operating routes underneath. He’s a willing and physical blocker in the running game and he has the ability to adjust to poorly-thrown balls.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism