Smith-Schuster says he'll play more snaps outside this season, Tim Benz of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Smith-Schuster has taken more than half his snaps from the slot in each of four NFL seasons, slowly increasing from 57.8 percent (2017) to 61.0 percent (2018) to 66.7 percent (2019), before leaping to 84.7 percent in 2020, per PFF. He's arguably at his best working inside, but a 5.8 aDOT last season didn't give him many opportunities for long gains. While more work outside could help Smith-Schuster get a few deep looks, he may also face tougher target/touch/snap competition this year after the Steelers improved their backfield in the first round of the 2021 draft (with Najee Harris) and used their second-round pick on a tight end (Pat Freiermuth) who could encourage more multi-TE looks. The team also still has Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool and James Washington at wide receiver, all of whom will compete for targets from 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger.
Smith-Schuster is signing a one-year, $8 million contract with the Steelers, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Rapoport suggests Smith-Schuster received better contract offers from the Ravens and Chiefs but decided to stay in Pittsburgh for at least one more year. He's counting on a friendlier free-agent market next offseason, at which point he'll be just 25 years old. Smith-Schuster hasn't made as many big plays the past couple years, but his cumulative receiving stats through four NFL seasons (308/3,726/26) are impressive. The biggest issue in Pittsburgh is a lack of downfield targets, with Smith-Schuster's aDOT dipping to a career-low 5.6 in 2020 as he led the league in slot routes (545) and slot targets (103). That allowed him to catch a career-high 76.4 percent of his targets, but for a career-low 8.6 yards per reception. While he'll likely do better than 8.6 YPR in 2021, it's hard to imagine Smith-Schuster getting a lot of deep targets in an offense where Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington dominate perimeter snaps.
Smith-Schuster has been talking with the Jets, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. The Jets recently signed Corey Davis and still have Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder under contract. While there are certainly bigger needs on the roster, it makes sense to prioritize pass-catching weapons as the team prepares to acquire a new quarterback. Plus, the Jets could trade or release Crowder if they end up signing Smith-Schuster.
Smith-Schuster hauled in a whopping 13 passes (19 targets) for 157 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 48-37 playoff loss to the Browns. The Steelers' offense as a whole looked like the team that was without its head coach and lacking a week of practice in the first quarter. Ben Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster finally got things rolling over the next three periods, but the deficit had grown too large to catch up. Still, it was a big win for the Smith-Schuster from a fantasy perspective, as it was his first 100-plus yard game with a touchdown this season. Smith-Schuster finished the regular season with 97 receptions for 831 yards and nine touchdowns. The combination of receptions and scores kept him useful in PPR formats, but the veteran saw a drop in usage to make room for Pittsburgh's suddenly stacked receiver corps. Smith-Schuster will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and a change of scenery seems plausible given the contract he could command and the Steelers' depth at the position. If Smith-Schuster lands in a situation in which receiver help is needed, it could put the talented wideout back in the upper echelon of pass catchers.
Smith-Schuster (knee) practiced fully Friday and does not carry an injury designation for Sunday's wild-card matchup against the Browns, Missi Matthews of the Steelers' official site reports. Smith-Schuster was held out of Thursday's practice due to a knee injury he's been dealing with all year, but it never seemed his status for Sunday's playoff bout was in any real danger. After piling up at least 50 yards and a score in three of his last four games to end the regular season, Smith-Schuster now will focus his attention toward dissecting a Browns secondary that may be without some combination of Denzel Ward (COVID-19 list), Terrance Mitchell (non-injury related) and M.J. Stewart (calf).
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/19||Las Vegas Raiders||23||24.25|
|4||10/03||@Green Bay Packers||6||19.56|
|11||11/21||@Los Angeles Chargers||7||20.25|
|16||12/26||@Kansas City Chiefs||2||18.47|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||122||83||936||6||46||11.28||129|