Second year success: JuJu Smith-Schuster emerged late last year for the Steelers offense. This year, he has exploded.
Through 14 games Smith-Schuster has 95 receptions, which leads the AFC, for 1,274 yards and six touchdowns.
Coach Mike Tomlin isn’t surprised at the huge step Smith-Schuster has taken, something that is just the normal process for a second-year player.
“Just the overall consistency in his performance has been better this year,” said Tomlin. “But that’s not a bold statement. We expect the overall consistency of all second year players to follow that line. I could say the same thing about T.J. Watt. I could say the same about James Conner. Those guys that have been part of our program, particularly those who have an opportunity to contribute as young people, be the type of component of the unit that JuJu was. It’s reasonable to expect him to use that as a springboard as they move forward into their second year.
“He has done that, continues to do that and continues to work in all aspects of his game and grow in terms of the understanding of the game. All of those things help him in terms of being a more consistent asset to us.”
Always working: Vince Williams is one of those players who week-in and week-out has become a dependable, steady force for the defense. He loves what he does, and it’s visible on the field every week.
Williams is second on the team in tackles with 71, while recording four and a half sacks, 10 quarterback pressures, two pass defenses and an interception.
“His maturation process is a very normal one,” said Tomlin. “He is a guy that was a later round draft pick, a non-combine invite who earned his stripes on special teams in the early years. He had to play some as a young guy due to circumstances, then had to fall back into a supportive role.
“He just never stopped working along the way. That has allowed him to ascend within our group and be ready for the challenges that we push his way. Whether it’s central communication or leadership, setting up defenses. He’s been here a decent amount of time. He is a guy that works his tail off to grow in all areas. He is continually putting himself in position to meet the challenges that the game and his career has put in front of him.”
Just for kicks: After Chris Boswell’s performance against the Oakland Raiders, where he missed two field goals, Tomlin opened up the kicking competition. In the end, Boswell won out and kicked against the New England Patriots. While he missed one early on Sunday against the Patriots, from 32 yards out, he hit a crucial field goal late in the game from 48 yards in the Steelers, 17-10, win.
Tomlin said Boswell will kick this week against the Saints, but when asked if he was satisfied with his performance his answer was simple.
“I am not into that satisfaction word,” said Tomlin. “We are ready to move forward this week.”