In only three seasons in the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster has made quite an impact in the NFL. He’s played at a high level thus far in his young career, but there’s evidence he may be scratching the surface of his potential. In one noticeable respect, Smith-Schuster greatly resembles one of the great Steelers’ receivers of all-time: Hines Ward.
But in what way exactly is Smith-Schuster like Ward?
Juju Smith-Schuster career overview
The Steelers selected Smith-Schuster in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, taking him 62nd overall. He’s currently in his third season in the league, and here’s what he’s accomplished so far:
- 36 games played
- 26 games started
- 194 catches for 2,683 yards receiving
- 16 touchdowns
- 74.5 yards per game
- One Pro Bowl selection
Smith-Schuster’s had some big shoes to fill in 2019, as Pittsburgh traded the superstar wideout Antonio Brown in the offseason. Brown isn’t the only great receiver in Pittsburgh’s storied history, however. As mentioned earlier, in one very significant way, Smith-Schuster reminds fans of Ward as well.
Hines Ward career overview
The Steelers’ selected Ward in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft at 92nd overall. He went on to become the team’s single greatest receiver of all time (at least so far). Here’s what he was able to accomplish during his wonderful career:
- 217 games played
- 190 games started
- 1,000 receptions for 12,083 yards receiving
- 85 touchdowns
- 55.7 yards per game
- Four-time Pro Bowl selection
- Two-time Super Bowl champion
- 10 postseason touchdowns
This season, Ward was inducted into the Steelers’ Hall of Honor alongside his former coach, Bill Cowher as part of the 2020 class. It was quite an accomplishment for Ward, but certainly well-deserved. No one could argue his place in Steelers’ history.
But while Ward had a great career in black and yellow, and Smith-Schuster seems well on his way to having one, how do the two compare? What’s the specific area of Smith-Schuster’s game that may remind fans of Ward?
How Juju Smith-Schuster is like Hines Ward
One of the toughest parts of joining the Steelers has to be the incredible legacies of their past great players. Few franchises have the history the Steelers have of championships and Hall of Fame legends. Only a select few, such as the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, can truly compare.
This puts a lot of pressure on the younger players. When they put on the uniform, they’re expected to withhold a standard. That standard can be nearly impossible to live up to, and many players fail in trying to do so.
Smith-Schuster is no different, and will surely draw comparisons to former Steelers. Smith-Schuster drew favorable comparisons to Ward the time he took out a noted Steelers’ villain. According to Bleacher Report, here’s how that went down:
“The moment Smith-Schuster demolished Vontaze Burfict as a rookie is precisely when his popularity skyrocketed. Burfict was a hated adversary in Pittsburgh. A villain. And this 6’1”, 215-pound receiver channeled an entire fanbase’s fury in lurking over him, WWE-style. He was fined, suspended, whatever. Smith-Schuster was also promptly offered free drinks, free food, free parking, free anything he’d ever want in this city.
A star was born.”
Smith-Schuster’s vicious hit reminded fans of Ward, who was an expert blocker in his day. Ward has been called “the best blocking receiver of all time.” Whether that’s true is up for debate. But blocking was a huge part of his game.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rookie year block showed fans he wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty like Ward. The two may not have similar styles — Smith-Schuster has a bit more athleticism than the workmanlike Ward did — but this commonality is enough to get the respect of all Pittsburgh fans.