Offseason Program

JuJu: 'I want it. I love it.'

The past few weeks haven't been what JuJu Smith-Schuster has hoped for on the field, sidelined for the majority of OTAs with his knee bothering him, and taking part only in individual drills during minicamp.

And while he said he is feeling 'great,' he also is feeling the irritation of not being out there with his teammates for every aspect of minicamp.

"I can't wait to come back. I am still just getting started with individuals this week and that's it," said Smith-Schuster. "It is frustrating. Not being out there with my guys. Everyone is here. It sucks.

"I have had a lot of mental reps. I hate it though. I am at the point where it's like what am I going to do out there today. Once I am able to run out there and put on the pads and be with my guys, it's like the whole game changes."

Smith-Schuster does expect that the five week break between the end of minicamp on Thursday and the start of training camp on July 25 will be enough time for him to be back to his old self when camp kicks off and he hopes to pick up where he left off last year.

"Just keep playing the way I have been playing," said Smith-Schuster. "Very aggressive. We drafted James Washington, I am super excited about that. A guy that has the same body type. He has been inside and outside. I am super excited about what he can do. For me just keep playing the game I have, outside and inside. Whatever they want me to do.

"I like playing in the slot. I like playing inside and outside, but I like playing inside. I love the physicality of being in the box with the bigger guys. It's something that is part of my game."

Smith-Schuster finished his rookie season with 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He also had two of the most exciting plays not just of the Steelers season, but the NFL overall.

In Week 8 against the Lions he had seven receptions for 193 yards, including the 97-yard touchdown catch from Ben Roethlisberger, where he caught the ball short and took off running, the longest pass play in Steelers' history, and tied for the longest offensive play in team history.

In Week 17 he helped lead the Steelers to a win over the Browns when he took a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, the first kickoff returned for a touchdown by the Steelers since Antonio Brown did so his rookie year when he took one 89 yards.

With Martavis Bryant no longer on the roster, traded to the Oakland Raiders, Smith-Schuster's workload is expected to increase. And he can't wait.

"I want it. I love it," said Smith-Schuster. "This is why I am here. I love the game. Whatever they put on my shoulders I am going to carry it and do what I can for this team."

One thing that might give him a little anxiety, though, is returning kickoffs. NFL owners approved rule changes that make the kickoffs safer, but it is going to require some adjustments.

"It's pretty scary. But it's something I will be doing," said Smith-Schuster. "You have no blockers. There is a big 20-yard gap where they can squib it, pooch it. It's going to be difficult."