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Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster prefers slot to outside WR because 'I just like the physical-ness'

Chris Adamski
| Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 3:39 p.m.
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lays out the Bengals' Vontaze Burfict during the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster lays out the Bengals' Vontaze Burfict during the fourth quarter Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

With Martavis Bryant in Oakland after a draft-day trade to the Raiders, JuJu Smith-Schuster unquestionably enters the 2018 season as the Steelers' No. 2 wide receiver behind All Pro Antonio Brown.

But where, exactly, will be fill that role from – opposite of Brown on the outside (Bryant's old domain), or out of the slot (where Eli Rogers held court until his departure from the organization in March)?

"Whatever it is they want me to do," Smith-Schuster said Wednesday during Steelers mini-camp.

"I have been playing inside and outside."

Yes, Smith-Schuster did play both roles at times last season. But what is Smith-Schuster's preference? Although he said he enjoys both, the second-year player did offer a definitive answer.

"I like playing inside. I just the physical-ness of using the body. It's part of my game."

An undisclosed injury has prevented Smith-Schuster from participating in team drills during organized team activities over the past month or in this week's mandatory minicamp. He's been limited to individual workouts this week.

As a 20-year-old rookie last season, Smith-Schuster played in 63.8 percent of the Steelers' offensive snaps last season. Can he handle more?

"I mean, I want it," he said. "I love the game; it's why I'm here. So whatever they put on my shoulders, I am going to carry it and see what I can do."

How the Steelers elect on a "division of labor" for their Nos. 3-4 receiver jobs could help determine where and how Smith-Schuster is utilized most often. The candidates range from two-year practice squad player Marcus Tucker (slot), veteran Darrius Heyward-Bey (outside) and rookie second-round pick James Washington (theoretically, either, though in practicality probably outside).

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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