On a team that is loaded with receiving talent like the Pittsburgh Steelers, it can be difficult for tenacious rookies to get the ample playing time they desire. Often times, talented rookies have to take advantage of the few opportunities they get whether they come from playing in the place of a sidelined veteran or simply converting the two or three targets they get per game into big plays. Even then, it takes many weeks of established consistency for these rookie wideouts to earn the trust of their respective quarterbacks, which is a unique rapport that takes time to develop. Although rookie receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is still working on strengthening this connection with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, his steady improvement each week in the Steelers offense is certainly worth keeping an eye on for fantasy owners that lack receiver depth.
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Position: Wide Receiver
Percent Owned On Fantasy Teams: (Yahoo Fantasy): 11%
Fantasy Points Total Thru Week 5 (Half PPR): Projected: 30.18 Actual: 34
Out of the 20 targets that have come his way, Smith-Schuster has only dropped one of them, which when you consider that the rookie wideout operates primarily in the slot and is heavily targeted in the red zone (28% target share in the red zone, 22nd amongst receivers) is particularly impressive. Despite only a 9.1% end zone target share (96th amongst receivers), Smith-Schuster has scored two touchdowns on the season, which suggests that his impressive speed has been the main reason for the rookie being a viable scorer.
Although Smith-Schuster has not garnered the total target shares that he would like (10.3% total target share, 99th amongst receivers) his presence on the field for his teams pass plays (on the field for 41 pass plays per game, 7th amongst receivers) indicates that the first-year wideout has earned ample playing time but hs still working on finding his moments to be a trusted target for Roethlisberger. Considering how many mouths the Steelers offense has to feed when it comes to passing the football, this disparity is relatively normal and will ultimately become more balanced assuming Smith-Schuster can continue to be a mainstay on the field.
While Smith-Schuster is still developing, his potential and heavy participation in pass plays seem to favor a progressively increasing trajectory in terms of success. While he may not have the big-play ability now, his red zone numbers and speed will give him plenty of opportunities to score touchdowns, making him an intriguing flex play week-to-week.