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Thread: 2019 Steelers by position: WR. Are we better off?

  1. #231

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    JuJu Smith-Schuster working to improve as a deep threat

    Posted by Josh Alper on August 22, 2019, 8:01 AM EDT

    JuJu Smith-Schuster knows the big question that everyone is asking about him as he heads into the 2019 season.

    “How is JuJu going to do without AB?”

    Smith-Schuster is the No. 1 wideout in Pittsburgh now that Antonio Brown is on the Raiders and he’s spent the offseason working to make sure that the answer to that question is a positive one. One of the things that he’s done on that front is focus on improving as a deep threat.

    Smith-Schuster has a pair of 97-yard touchdowns on his resume, but both came on long runs after the catch and he wants to try things the other way this season.

    “Being able to catch the deep balls down the field, those go balls, those free balls that they send down the field where I’ve got to go make those plays,” Smith-Schuster said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “That’s what I’ve focused on a lot, catching the ball over the shoulder and being able to be a threat on the outside.”

    Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he already feels Smith-Schuster “can do kind of everything” the team asks of a receiver, but polishing up that aspect of his game should help him make good on hopes that the Steelers offense won’t miss a step this year.
    Steeler teams featuring stat-driven, me-first, fantasy-football-darling diva types such as Antonio Brown & Le'Veon Bell won no championships.

    Super Bowl winning Steeler teams were built around a dynamic, in-your-face defense plus blue-collar, hard-hitting, no-nonsense football players on offense such as Hines Ward & Jerome Bettis.

    We don't want Juju & Conner to replace what we lost in Brown & Bell.

    We are counting on Juju & Conner to return us to the glory we once had with Hines & The Bus.

  2. #232

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    Film Room: Diontae Spencer Knows How To Make You Miss

    By Alex Kozora
    Posted on August 23, 2019

    Diontae Spencer is comfortable with winning in space. When you played in the CFLís wide open fields and have 4.3 fields, you can make defenders look silly. Thatís what Spencer has done through his first two games. By my count, on offense and special teams combined, heís forced nine missed tackles.

    Letís take a look at the damage heís done already.

    His change of direction and lateral mobility is evident most times he has the ball. What I love about him as a return man is that heís able to routinely make the first guy miss. Cut to his left, force the miss, get a couple extra yards out of this punt return.

    Same thing his next punt return. Good posture, catches it cleanly, plants that left foot in the ground and gets upfield. Another solid return.

    Same thing in the kick return game. The initial impression of what he did against Tampa Bay didnít feel great, sullied by an ugly 3rd down drop, but looking back, he was productive. Those two missed tackles arenít as obvious as the first pair but he has the speed to beat the angle of two coverage players and get past the 30 yard line, a huge win for the return game. Offense an extra seven yards ahead of where theyíd be had he taken a knee.

    And from last week. Three missed tackles on this punt return. Well blocked, we covered that yesterday, but he has the speed to beat the angle of the first two would-be tackles while juking out the punter (I know, hardly counts) for a 38 yard runback.

    Another ankle-breaker in the punt return game. And again, making the first man miss.

    And one more on offense for good measure. End around to him. Plants that foot, cuts upfield, wins in space. Thatís what Spencer brings to the table.

    In the return game, I canít stress enough how important it is to make the first guy miss. You do that and your return is even half-decently blocked and you can make big plays. Make the initial defender miss and factor in the kicker/punter and now itís 11 on 9. Advantage offense.

    The Steelersí kick return game has been horrible the last two years and the punt return game has only been average. Already, Spencer feels like a better return man than Ryan Switzer though heís less proven as a receiver and might not have the level of trust in the coaching staff. Then thereís the lack of consistency thatís plagued the Steelers forever (the last time they had the same kick returner in consecutive years since Rod Woodson in 1992 and 1993).

    Spencer still has work to do. His path to the roster comes as a return man only, essentially, and to do that, you have to prove consistency and big-play ability throughout. But he, like Johnny Holton, havenít taken themselves out of the running for earning a roster spot, making these next two games critical for both of them.

  3. #233

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    2019 Steelers Training Camp Recap: Wide Receivers

    By Alex Kozora
    Posted on August 24, 2019

    For the rest of the preseason, weíll give a recap, position-by-position, player-by-player of what I saw during the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers training camp and preseason games. Rounding out the skill positions with the wide receivers.

    Wide Receivers

    JuJu Smith-Schuster: Not that you needed to know much about him at this point, at least not in the preseason, but he had an excellent camp. Led the team, predictably, in receptions, targets, yards, and touchdowns. His average was impressive, a healthy 12.8, and he led the team in 20+ yard receptions with eight of them. Good stuff all around.

    Camp Grade: A

    James Washington: A very good camp for him. And yes, we were saying the same things a year ago. But by all accounts, heís in better shape, conditoning, and much improved above the neck to instill the confidence and create the consistency he lacked during that miserable rookie year. Washington balled out in his first two preseason games, winning vertically and showing the ability to attack and high point the football. Fully confident heíll be the #3 receiver in 11 personnel, allowing JuJu kick to the slot. His numbers will probably be inconsistent, heís primarily a deep threat, but thereís every reason to expect a jump Year One to Year Two.

    Camp Grade: A-

    Diontae Spencer: Spencerís camp can be described by a series of ebbs and flows. Quiet-ish initial start, really picked it up around practices #5 through #9, came back to Earth in the preseason opener and end of camp, but rose again versus Tampa Bay. We profiled his ability to make the first man miss and heís already up to nine missed tackles in the first two games, an absurdly good number. If he makes the team, itíll be as a returner, not a receiver, though in the latter, his straight-line speed is legit. Not just a product of facing lesser competition in the CFL. He averaged 14.3 yards per catch in camp.

    His hands though? Different story. Not the best.

    But he has his work cut out for him and to bump Switzer off the roster, will have to make a compelling case these next two games. That means returning at least one kick or punt for a touchdown.

    Camp Grade: B

    Eli Rogers: Rogers didnít see the ball a lot in camp but he, as youíd expect, was a much bigger downfield threat than Ryan Switzer was in Latrobe. Rogers averaged 9.8 yards per catch. Switzer only 6.5. Rogers consistently ran ahead of Switz in the slot though Rogers lacks some of the extra value that Switz does (multi-facet return game, less versatile to move around the formation). If Switzer is the lock the media has made him out to be, then Rogers is the man whose spot is in danger though for now, I think heís safe. Heíll just have to hold off Johnny Holton.

    Camp Grade: B-

    Johnny Holton: Holton missed the first portion of camp with a hamstring injury but got himself right in the nick of time. He had one of the best individual practices of any of the receivers, catching two deep balls the final session before the Bucsí game, and then carried that over to a long 59 yard catch and run in the opener. Heís able to separate himself from the gaggle of small, slot receivers with his big frame, long stride, and coverage ability. Though he can return kicks too. To make the roster, heíll likely have to find a way to push Rogers off of it. It does seem heís practice squad eligible and I wouldnít be mad if they stashed him on there. If heís on the 53, he has value as a receiver and gunner.

    Camp Grade: B-

    Donte Moncrief: Unfortunately, pretty quiet for him. Blame that one a left finger injury that caused him to miss the middle chunk of camp. By the end of Latrobe, he showed chemistry with Ben Roethlisberger that bodes well for the two in the regular season. Despite the lackluster month, and the fumble in the Chiefsí game, heíll begin the year as the teamís starting X receiver opposite of JuJu.

    Camp Grade: C+

    Ryan Switzer: Switzer had a fine camp. It was as expected. He made plays underneath, often targeted by Roethlisberger, and looks like a trust and sure-handed return guy. I was hoping for him to do more damage downfield though. He had just one reception of 15+ yards. Compare that to Rogers who had three of them (with fewer overall catches). The value he brings as a kick/punt returner though is huge and probably enough to secure his roster spot. He also led the team with the most receptions Ė 22 Ė without a drop, though he did let one through his hands during one of the preseason games.

    Camp Grade: C+

    Diontae Johnson: Johnson definitely flashed his ability to do damage after the catch. I remember him turning Brian Allen around early on for a big run-after-catch. But he struggled to win vertically consistently during camp (he did flash that against the Chiefs though neither were really contested) and the dings heís dealt with throughout have set him back. Heís looked shaky as a punt returner too and itís hard to trust his judgment and ball security right now.

    There could still be a role for him and he will make progress as the season goes on but heís taking a back seat to start. Itís possible, likely, even, he begins the year inactive.

    On the field, heís probably a little better than the ďCĒ grade Iím about to give him but the lack of availability pushes him down. Thatís hurting him. But I want to be clear Ė his future remains bright.

    Camp Grade: C

    Tevin Jones: After a terribly quiet start, Jones picked it up in the middle and finished second on the team in receptions and third in targets. No one saw more jump balls/back shoulder fades than Jones, who uses his size and frame well to box guys out. But he doesnít seem to offer much more than that. Some versatility, he can play inside out, but not a strong route runner, questionable hands (five drops in camp alone, at least one at Heinz Field) and I havenít seen much out of his coverage ability this year. I still think they like him and his potential and he may be kept on the practice squad, he should root for Holton to make the 53, but he didnít wow me this year and I doubt heíll ever be more than a practice squad-bubble player.

    Camp Grade: C

    Trey Griffey: Griffey knew how to make a splash. Only 11 receptions despite practicing every single day but he averaged over 14 yards per snag, including two of 35+ on nine routes down the sideline. But he disappeared most days and thereís no standout trait about him. If they want to keep a special teams/coverage guy on the practice squad, itíll be Holton. Not Griffey. Team kept him around all of last year but theyíre probably moving on now.

    Camp Grade: C-

    Brandon Reilly: Barely enough information to get an evaluation here. Reilly was signed during camp after injuries to the position caused the lines to get thin. Decent size, questionable hands, and a below average athlete. Heís about an easy to move on from as anyone on the 91 man roster. If I had to rank íem, heís probably in that 88-90 range.

    Camp Grade: D

  4. #234

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    Steelers' James Washington believes big-play preseason isn't a tease this time

    12:32 AM ET

    Jeremy Fowler
    ESPN Staff Writer

    PITTSBURGH -- James Washington is not all that impressed with his big-play August. He's been through this before, tearing up the 2018 preseason only to disappear for parts of his rookie year.

    This time around, he even looks unimpressed with himself after each leaping catch. That's because he expects it to last.

    "I'm just trying to show coaches something and put it on their minds that I've gotten better," the Pittsburgh Steelers receiver said.

    That improvement is on the minds of many inside the Steelers' building. Motivated to rebound from last year's quiet 16-catch, 217-yard campaign, Washington has nine catches for 173 yards and two touchdowns through three preseason games. Sunday's untouched 41-yard score might have been his best, easily beating Tennessee Titans coverage up the middle as former Oklahoma State teammate Mason Rudolph found him in stride.

    Though Donte Moncrief appears to have solidified a starting outside receiver job opposite JuJu Smith-Schuster, Washington looks like an X factor the offense needs with his ability to make difficult catches.

    Moncrief, Ryan Switzer and Eli Rogers were on the field with the first-team offense Sunday as the Steelers employed a quick passing game to ensure two things for QB Ben Roethlisberger: release the ball quickly, stay healthy.

    The offense still needs an additional vertical threat, and Washington's playmaking elicited this reaction from staff members a few times during camp: 'That's a heckuva catch.'

    On deep balls, Washington is getting open consistently enough that he often has to back-track to secure throws in practices and games.

    Washington is quick to point out he's facing vanilla preseason defenses and isn't always going up against first-string defenders. But that hasn't quelled the excitement from Smith-Schuster, who sees a "huge difference" in Washington.

    "... As you guys can see during preseason, he’s making plays left and right," Smith-Schuster said. "Like I said, there is no doubt in my mind he’s going to be doing that during the season. Super excited to watch him.”

    Natural ability was never an issue for Washington. Last week, a contest broke out in the Steelers locker room to see which players could touch the roughly-12-foot ceiling off a vertical jump (no running start). Washington (5-11) and safety Terrell Edmunds (6-2) were the only players to do it.

    But Washington was uncomfortable in the offense a year ago and lost his confidence. Roethlisberger and tight end Vance McDonald were among teammates to call him out, obviously seeing the potential.

    Coming off two 60-plus-yard games in the final three weeks of 2018, Washington invested in the Year 2 jump. Losing 15 pounds in the offseason while working on the family farm in Stamford, Texas, should help Washington sustain a 16-game season.

    Now, Washington wants to be more than a niche receiver.

    "Just making plays and taking everything that comes my way," Washington said. "Doing what I can do to be successful for this team...I'm more effective with (the offense). The playbook, I know it better now. Things are fluid and that helps me react faster."
    Steeler teams featuring stat-driven, me-first, fantasy-football-darling diva types such as Antonio Brown & Le'Veon Bell won no championships.

    Super Bowl winning Steeler teams were built around a dynamic, in-your-face defense plus blue-collar, hard-hitting, no-nonsense football players on offense such as Hines Ward & Jerome Bettis.

    We don't want Juju & Conner to replace what we lost in Brown & Bell.

    We are counting on Juju & Conner to return us to the glory we once had with Hines & The Bus.

  5. #235

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  6. #236

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    And to think the term "Talent deficient" was used to describe the WR corp in the off season

  7. #237
    Hall of Famer

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    Washington has stepped up but it’s still preseason.

  8. #238

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh wow View Post
    Washington has stepped up but itís still preseason.
    Just look at the Washington glass as half full and adding more to it. Embrace the positive

  9. #239

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ernie View Post
    And to think the term "Talent deficient" was used to describe the WR corp in the off season
    From the 2010-2019 season, (A 9 year period that the majority of Cowher's players & coaches had left) Mike Tomlin has only won 3 playoff games. And two of those wins were against back up Quarterbacks.


    Dolphin fans in the 90ís who wanted to hold on to Don Shula for what he did in the 70ís...

    Are the same as Steeler fans (of 2020 ) holding on to Tomlin for what he did in 2008.

  10. #240

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    how quickly things change, JuJu Smith-Schuster is the only Steelers WR who was in the roster in 2017.


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