Quite the comparison: It’s not often that a second-year player gets his name mentioned with a player who has been talked about as a potential Hall of Famer, but that was just the case on Tuesday when Coach Mike Tomlin compared JuJu Smith-Schuster’s blocking ability to that of Hines Ward, who set the standard for blocking for a receiver.
“His attitude regarding his role in the run game,” said Tomlin of how Smith-Schuster has evolved this year. “His knowledge and awareness in terms of blocking box defenders. Young guys in terms of declarations, identifying fronts, blocking linebackers at times, blocking support secondary people as needed. Not only does he have the physical attributes to do it, he has the mentality to do it. He has the intelligence to do it.
“He is Hines Ward like in some of those things. I realize what I said when I said that. This guy enjoys it. He embraces it. And I think it helps us. I don’t know that we’ve had a guy that I can even make that loose comparison to.”
Traffic cop: Sean Davis leads the secondary with 51 tackles, and is third overall on the team in that category. But it’s not just his stats that make him so valuable. In his first year playing free safety Davis has become the one handling the communication in the secondary and is doing a great job.
“He is a traffic cop back there,” said Tomlin. “He occupies the role Mike Mitchell occupied before him. That Ryan Clark occupied before Mike Mitchell. It’s a hub of communication. It’s a lot of responsibility that goes with that role. He is delivering similar tangible production in terms of numbers and tackling and so forth. But this guy has made a dramatic step in terms of what he brings to us because he keeps a lid on it back there, he communicates, he is a hub of communication.
“He has done a heck of a job of it. And he is evolving. He has done well, but he is going to do better. He continually has displayed that and we expect that. He has been in the lineup, but some of the responsibilities and things we ask him to do are new to him.”
On a streak: The Steelers are currently on a six-game winning streak, but it’s nothing new to them. Last year they went on an eight-game winning streak, while in 2016 they closed out the regular season winning seven straight games. But Tomlin doesn’t like to look back at what happened on the past, rather just think about the present as far as being able to go on such streaks.
“Part of it is focusing on the here and now,” said Tomlin. “I say it often, and I mean it, you better be good enough to win, but you better be continually getting better. That is what we try to be. We try to be good enough to win on Sundays and we acknowledge on Mondays that we better get back to work because you better be good enough to win the following Sunday.
“We take that approach and have and work hard to live it out and stay singularly focused on the things that are important to us, the variables that we can control, our preparation and our play. Our analysis of that and then repeating the process.”