Smith-Schuster told Yahoo's Tank Williams that the departure of Martavis Bryant will give the second-year wideout a better opportunity to show what he's capable of. Smith-Schuster and Bryant essentially operated as co-No. 2 receivers last season, with the former producing far more efficiently while the latter actually held an 84-80 advantage in targets. The 2017 second-round pick's quick development made Bryant expendable, with the Steelers ultimately trading him for a third-round pick in the recently completed draft. The team did use a second-round selection on wideout James Washington, but he shouldn't be an immediate threat to Smith-Schuster's playing time or target volume. Coming off a rookie season in which he caught 58 of 80 targets for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, the USC product is a strong bet to reach triple digits in the target column during his sophomore campaign, potentially even threatening Le'Veon Bell's status as the No. 2 pass-game option in Pittsburgh. Bell finished second on the team in receptions and targets in 2014, 2016 and 2017, trailing Antonio Brown each time.
Smith-Schuster will take on an expanded role over the final two weeks of the regular season with Antonio Brown (calf) out of the lineup, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports. Smith-Schuster has been efficient but also inconsistent this season, producing 11.1 yards per target while recording three games with 97 or more receiving yards and five games with less than 40 yards. He should be more dependable with Brown on the sideline, likely drawing at least a handful of extra targets when the Steelers face a lifeless Houston defense on Monday Night Football. The Texans have allowed opposing wideouts to post a 62.4-percent catch rate and 9.4 yards per target this season, with one out of every 15.6 targets going for a touchdown. A few teams have given up more total fantasy points to wide receivers, but no defense has allowed such efficient production on a per-target basis.
Smith-Schuster (hamstring) brought in all six of his targets for 114 yards in Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Patriots. He also returned two kickoffs for 49 yards. The rookie appeared to have made the play of the afternoon when he took a short pass up the left sideline and then cut back to the middle late in the fourth quarter, gaining 69 yards before appearing to run out of gas and getting brought down at the Patriots' 10-yard line. Smith-Schuster showed no ill effects whatsoever from the hamstring issue that had been plaguing him earlier in the week, and he appears poised for No. 1 receiver duties in Week 16 against the vulnerable Texans secondary with Antonio Brown (calf) likely to miss the contest, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Smith-Schuster (hamstring), who logged a limited practice Friday and is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Patriots, is expected to play, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports. Smith-Schuster missed the Week 14 win over the Ravens due to suspension for an illegal hit, but now the Steelers should have all of their weapons back on the field. While his absence didn't ultimately cost the Steelers in the high-scoring victory, the team surely benefits from having all hands to take on the 10-3 Patriots. Smith-Schuster could find himself in single coverage quite often if New England head coach Bill Belichick does his thing and tries to shut down the opponent's best player, that being Antonio Brown.
Smith-Schuster (hamstring) was limited at practice Thursday. Smith-Schuster, who is back from a one-game suspension, was added to the Steelers' injury report Thursday, so his status for Sunday's game against the Patriots is worth monitoring. With New England likely to focus on containing star wideout Antonio Brown on Sunday, Smith-Schuster could be a sneaky fantasy play this week, that is, of course, if his hamstring issue doesn't impact his effectiveness or availability this weekend.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/16||Kansas City Chiefs||30||23.35|
|3||09/25||@Tampa Bay Buccaneers||31||23.75|
|13||12/02||Los Angeles Chargers||7||17.00|
|15||12/16||New England Patriots||27||22.58|
|16||12/23||@New Orleans Saints||20||20.00|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||80||58||917||7||39||15.81||133|