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Steeler Hitman

Fans are at Times Very Fickle

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Most fans are very passionate about their favorite team and players.  Fans love you when you do well and will drop you faster than a hot potato at the first sign of adversity.  I am curious because I have seen fans reactions from four Steelers in particular:

1. Mason Rudolph

2. Ju Ju Smith Shuster

3. James Connor

4. Devlin "Da Duck" Hodges

I am going to illustrate a few points wiith each of these players.

Mason Rudolph - -  Our third round draft choice who was thrust into being the back-up QB after the Steelers decided to let Landry Jones go two years ago (which I still say was a mistake) and keep Josh Dobbs.  I understand that you want to keep and develop young talent.  However, Rudolph was a draft proospect who flew up the charts late and many even had him slipping into the first round.  Although no one will admit it now, I remember seeing and reading some opinions and analysis that had Mason rated as a better NFL QB prospect than soon to be Offensive MVP LaMarr Jackson.  No one seems to remember the Mason that came off the bench and nearly led the Steelers to a victory against the Seahawks in the game the Steelers lost Big Ben for the season.  This is the same Mason that helped hold an offense together that was minus Ju Ju and James and "managed" the offense and Steelers to a 4-2 record going into a short week on the road in Cleveland.  Now in his second season and chocked full of about eight games experience has been relegated to a "has been" and a "never will be" by many fans. 

Mason never looked like an elite talent, but he did do a decent job of game managing and even the early turnovers that he had where more a result of tipped passes off of his receivers hands.  There is a learning curve to playing NFL QB as both a starter and back-up.  The more games that you play, the more that teams can prepare and try to force you to play to your weakness.  Let us not forget that our vaunted top three or four OL has not played up to its best abilities.  Our running game has been inconsistent and the Steelers have rarely been able to flex their offensive muscle and impose their will running the ball on some of these defenses. Would Mason have been better with a healthy Ju Ju, Connor and better OL. Definitely so!

Did Mason getting a concussion affect him. I think so, because his play not coincidently began to go down after the hit that Earl Thomas layed on him. Despite some of the things that Mason has experienced, his best days are still ahead of him.  Will he be Peyton Manning? No, neither iwll a whole lot of QB's, but I don't believe he would be Ryan Leaf either. Development is a funny thing as are the fit in the right system.  I think that Mason will be a better QB in 2020 because of what he went through and prayfully would also never see the field in 2020 unless it is in some mop up duty relieving Big Ben.  Third round prospects take time to develop. It rarely goes well when you are thrust into the spotlight ahead of that development time.  I do think Mason can be a better back-up and QB prospect than Landry Jones was, however, just not this year.

Ju Ju Smith-Shuster - -  It is mind boggling how this kid has received any criticism.  He is a classic old school high character, high performance Steelers WR.  The kid has been couragous, likeable, and has given his heart and soul on the field and for the city ofPittsburgh. Ju Ju has had some injuries throughout his career and missed games in each of his three seasons. This season has been especially trying as Ben went down, Ju Ju has had to play with back-ups coming into their own, double coverage and his own injuries.  For whatever reason, his reputation has taken a hit with some fans. Why? Yes Ju Ju has had two costly fumbles in two big games over the past two  seasons trying to help his team win.  Yet his attitude, demeanor and commitment to team has not change.  We are now hearing that Ju Ju is injury prone.  There may be some truth to that.  What I don't understand is some of the negative talk as if "his play" has fallen off. His production is down, but that certainly isn't all on him.  Jerry Rice would not put up huge numbers in the Steelers imited offense with Masona dn Duck being asked to manage the game more than to go out and win one. I still believe that when his career is over, there will be names echoed of Swann, Stallworth, Ward, (yes AB too) and Ju Ju!  I believe that he will follow in the footsteps of Swann, Ward and Santonio and help the Steelers win a SB and a earn an game MVP.   His character, pedigree and age are at the point that Ju Ju's best is still yet to come as well. Watch what he does when he comes back and then watch what he does when Ben comes back. If he is struggling or doing bad then we can have this discussion again.

James Connor - - How quick the fans can fall off of you after you get hurt, fumble or have any adversity. This is the same kid that kicked cancer straight in the @$$!!!!  It is hard to gain yards running with back-up QB's, playing against solid defenses who are putting 8, 9 and even 10 guys in the box to stop the run.  Connor runs hard with punishing abandon.  He would be even more effective if he had a bulldozing OL like the 49'ers, Ravens or Seahawks.  The Steelers OL is built to protect Ben and use Ben's passing to set up the run.  Finney, Banner and Fieler are road graders who can open holes, but Pouncey, DeCastro, Big Al, and Foster are all better at pass protection.  The threat of not being able to effectively pass has hurt the Steelers offense and rushing attack in particular.  Connor has gotten the "always hurt" label as well. A lot of that is his style and some is the team learning to better utilize him in conjunction with another RB.  Connors affect could be felt in helping the Steelers score their lone TD against the Bills.  Unfortunatley, he was also invovled in the costly red zone fumble that resulted in zero points  in a defensive struggle.  Bottom line is that Connor has shown he can be a dependable RB1.  He and I think most RB's would be best served with a relible #2.  Is that Benny Snell, Whyte or Samuels? Snell has a similar smash-mouth run style of Connor an dis just not elusive as I would like from a RB.  Samuels is more of a receiving threat.  Whyte offers the best contrast in style and has speed. I am just not sure he is a true RB2.  Getting Connor help in 2020 would be on my radar, but I don't think Connor is anything other than winner. 

Duck Hodges - - One minute you are a free agent long-shot and the next you are the starter on the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Our fickleness as fans really shows with Duck.  When Mason struggled, everyone called for Duck like he was the second coming of Steelers great and HOF'er Terry Bradshaw.  Duck had success early. He let the ball rip. He wasn't afraid to throw the ball downfield. That was something that Mason was heavily criticized for.  Duck seemed to throw anything but Ducks early.  The Univeristy of Samford grad had won games against the first picks of the last two NFL drafts.  Duck mania was flying high. Expectations were exceeed and the RAISED!  Some of us fans started to believe our hype.  Maybe we could actually go to the Super Bowl with Duck? Yeah!!!  Well the Bills brought us back to reality..... The Steelers did not play their best game on both sides of the ball and the Bills did not let Duck beat them.  They took the run away and made Duck throw into mutliple coverages and blitzes and defensive schemes that caused Duck to think and second guess more than simply to throw confidentantly without regard of consequence.  Yes, when you throw an INT or two, it makes you a bit gun-shy.  Ask Mason.   This is the same Duck than won his first four NFL tarts without having all of his weapons and talent around him as well.  He helped James Washington have a coming out party.  He won on the road, he kept the Steelers in play-off contention.  

Now coming off a four INT performance and several key redzone breakdowns that resulted in only one offensive TD, Duck is just any other QB bird on the block.  The Steelers lost to Buffalo by one possession despite turning the ball over five times to two and the defense not getting the sacks and pressure it usually does allowing the Bills  to post an 87 yard rusher and 99 yard reciver.  The Steelers lost but it wasn't all because of Duck.  This certainly wasn't his shining moment, but he was not the sole reason the Steelers lost to the Bills.  Now Duck will probably be on a short string this weekned as the Jets game is a must win.  If he struggles in the first half, do the Steelers revert back to Mason to save the play-offs? 

We seem to go back and forth with our love hate of players, coaches and others. The 2019 Steelers have gone from a team that looked like it would struggle to win even a single game to one that is in the driver's seat of a wildcard game. This can change depending on what happens in New York Sunday afternoon.  Have we gone from Duck, Duck! to goose eggs? The roller coaster ride which is the 2019 Steelers continues.  Let's see what the Duck and company can do with Ju Ju, James, Vance and company this weekend.  If all fares well, us fare-weather  fans will be back riding the Duck train.

 

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I don't think any of them are anything special. JuJu has flashed the most, Conner behind him. Conner is clearly our best back but I don't think he's irreplaceable. I wouldn't mind to sign him to an extension but it would have to be cheap. JuJu is probably a top 10 #2 WR in the league, maybe closer to top 5 for his ceiling. I don't think he has a singular trait that would make him elite, but he's a fine #2. The QB's are both career backups. I think Rudolph is probably the better of the two long term because I think he's a lot smarter and more meticulous. 

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Conner's running style leads him to be injured every season.  He is the best runner but can't be counted on.  Keep him but draft a replacement.

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3 hours ago, jebrick said:

Conner's running style leads him to be injured every season.  He is the best runner but can't be counted on.  Keep him but draft a replacement.

What is it about his style that does? Too upright? Too violent? 

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2 hours ago, MOSteelers56 said:

What is it about his style that does? Too upright? Too violent? 

Looks for direct contact too often. It gets the quality tough yards but shortens his seasons and ultimately his career also.

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3 hours ago, Big Snack said:

Looks for direct contact too often. It gets the quality tough yards but shortens his seasons and ultimately his career also.

More RB's need to learn from Marcus Allen,  or at least some or even a few. 

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@Steeler Hitman, I love reading your posts, bur they go on forever sometimes.

xD...just messin.

 

Anyway, Ill respond to this quickly...

Rudolph and Hodges....I think people should give them a break.  Neither came into this season expecting significant playing time, and therefore didnt get the type of coaching they needed to be ready to start in place of Ben the entire year, but both had some success.  Also, both were essentially handcuffed by an OC who is clearly in over his head.    Neither were ready to start and neither are starting caliber talents.  This is what happens when your franchise QB suddenly goes down.

Juju...love the guy, but not sold he is a number 1.  I would love to keep him long term, but not for top tier number 1 money.

Conner is a capable RB, but will always be injury prone.  Id like to keep him, but only for a reasonable price.  The league isnt really fair for RBs, but thats the reality of it.

 

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The hate juju gets is Ridiculous! He may not be a number one yet, but it took until year 4 for Antonio Brown to become A.B. I’m not saying that’s what I think he’ll become, but the man is 23 years old and has three years of experience under his belt. I’m not convinced we’ve seen his ceiling yet. It seems like WRs are slow developers.  A.B is/was in the same Category(in terms of play) of rice, moss, Marvin Harrison, T.O, ect. Please tell me how many times did their number two beat them in catches and yards. Even with all the attention they drew. I wonder if Reggie Wayne was catching the same heat early in his career. The steelers offense didn’t lack any weapons early, mid, and the end of Browns career here. People forget that it’s the ultimate team game. They benefit from one other especially when A could be hall of fame QB was in his prime. This year we had two young WRs on the opposite side going through growing pains and another that’s not even on the team anymore. The way how Washington has been playing as late will really help juju. Having juju will also help johnson/Cain and ultimately duck/mason. I don’t know why their still messing with holton.... SMH

I wasn’t completely sold on Mason. Even early on. The flea flicker play to juju against the hawks felt like a punt. Watching his timing was very hard at times. His mid passing game was also high/low/behind/to forward. Granted our young WR core and drops-crief didn’t help much. It looked like he was scared until the ravens game then got knocked out and regressed. 

Duck, it’s hard not to root for this long shot rookie. Literally, I’ve been rooting for him to be on the team during training. I like his confidence in the pocket and doesn’t just stand like a deer in the headlights. However, both have a long way to go to become bens replacement. People forget Ben had a horrible games in the 2004 playoff games. It happens with young QBs, not every QB starts out like Marino or Mahomes. I’m obviously pulling for duck over Mason. 
 

connor, it’s hard not to root for him also. With Snell and Samuels I’m starting to think RB by Committee approach would be ideal for all of them since they’ve missed time this year and go with who’s hot during the game. Long term, I’m not sure yet. They’ve also had short comings when healthy. 
 

The blame for this offense is all around and injuries to three of your feature players doesn’t help including the coordinator( he’s not off the hook though). The only ones, IMO, that don’t have an excuse is the o line. [insert a shockingly cuss word phrase here]. All that money tied into them and their that? Idk if it’s because munch left or it’s that time for three of them to retire or be cut.

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Where is all this supposed hate Juju gets?    I'm seriously curious.

And AB was a 6th rounder showing his ability as a number 1 in his second year.  Juju doesnt need to be the all time great talent AB was...he just needs to show the abilty to get open more often without someone else pulling coverage off him if he wants to be a bonafide number 1 target.

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8 hours ago, FourThreeMafia said:

Where is all this supposed hate Juju gets?    I'm seriously curious.

Twitter blew up on him some. Because he is hurt and posts a lot on social media. I guess people like their players to only be focusing on football and never not thinking about it (because the people that want that should only be focused on being an accountant or a plumber and not on 22 year old kids social media). 

I almost think one of the top 5 things from this year is that I believe our price for extending JuJu and Connor got much much better.  I think JuJu is in the $10M to $14M range and Connor in between $5-$8. I think those are pretty good prices for their production levels  

 

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10 hours ago, FourThreeMafia said:

And AB was a 6th rounder showing his ability as a number 1 in his second year.  Juju doesnt need to be the all time great talent AB was...he just needs to show the abilty to get open more often without someone else pulling coverage off him if he wants to be a bonafide number 1 target.

Im not fully disagreeing with you. I’m remembering Wallace and miller not being people that got slept on in that offense during the time. We can add sanders during his last year here where we had 3 receivers over 600 yards and a TE over 800. It also helps when you have a QB(Ben) that isn’t afraid to throw the ball like Mason was most of the year. A.B’s route running was better in comparison. Their play style is different with juju being more physical. This season is difficult to judge if he’s a number 1 or just a really solid 2. Next year will paint a better picture. 
 

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On 2019-12-21 at 3:09 AM, FourThreeMafia said:

Where is all this supposed hate Juju gets?    I'm seriously curious.

And AB was a 6th rounder showing his ability as a number 1 in his second year.  Juju doesnt need to be the all time great talent AB was...he just needs to show the abilty to get open more often without someone else pulling coverage off him if he wants to be a bonafide number 1 target.

and not put the ball on the ground.  Hands are good but run after catch leaves us a bit nervous lets say:ph34r:

 

22 hours ago, MOSteelers56 said:

Twitter is a cesspool...

what will the world bring them next though

 

22 hours ago, Dcash4 said:

I almost think one of the top 5 things from this year is that I believe our price for extending JuJu and Connor got much much better.  I think JuJu is in the $10M to $14M range and Connor in between $5-$8. I think those are pretty good prices for their production levels  

Connor will get a raw deal since he is a RB, like it our not . JJSS had his chance this year but never had QB stability and has injury concerns. Both of those need to be sorted out and for whole season before the FO dishes out that kind of deal.  The knee injury  right now better go away for good or it won't help him in a new deal. 

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38 minutes ago, AlanFanecaFan said:

I know they wouldn’t do it but I’d rather give Kareem Hunt a multi year deal than James Conner.

id rather draft etienne than give a 2nd contract to either rb.

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