When the Pittsburgh Steelers traded Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders last March, JuJu Smith-Schuster immediately stepped into the No. 1 wide receiver role and was expected by many to have another monster year.
After all, Smith-Schuster hauled in 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns alongside Brown last season, so just imagine what he would do now that he no longer had Brown soaking up so many targets.
Well, not exactly.
With just one regular-season game left in 2019, Smith-Schuster has logged just 40 catches for 546 yards and three scores in what has been a nightmarish campaign for the third-year wideout.
Of course, extenuating circumstances have played a major factor in Smith-Schuster's lack of success.
First of all, the 23-year-old missed four games between Weeks 12 and 15 due to a concussion and a knee injury, so his stats would unquestionably look quite a bit better had he been able to remain healthy.
Second, the Steelers' quarterback situation has been a complete mess, as Ben Roethlisberger went down for the season with an elbow injury in Week 2, and since then, Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges have been playing musical chairs under center.
Not only that, but outside of rookie Diontae Johnson, the rest of Pittsburgh's receiving corps has been abysmal, meaning that Smith-Schuster has been the center of the defense's attention all year.
So, clearly, Smith-Schuster has a lot of valid excuses for his shoddy production this season.
However, that all goes out the window in Week 17 with the Steelers fighting for a playoff spot.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh will battle a Baltimore Ravens club that has already clinched the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so the Ravens might rest some guys, giving the Steelers a much better shot on the road.
In order for Pittsburgh to nail down a postseason berth, it would need to beat Baltimore and see the Houston Texans defeat the Tennessee Titans. The Texans have already clinched a playoff spot, but they are playing for seeding, so chances are, they will be taking that matchup seriously.
That means there is still a realistic chance for the Steelers to make the playoffs, but in order for them to do that, Smith-Schuster needs to step up.
Pittsburgh's offense as a whole has been an unmitigated disaster in 2019, whether it has been injuries or a lack of talent overall. That being said, these are the types of games where your best players must shine, and Smith-Schuster is undoubtedly the Steelers' best receiver, and, along with running back James Conner (who will miss the bout with the Ravens), the team's best offensive player, period.
Hodges will be under center with Rudolph now out for the season, and given the way he has played recently, that is a scary thought for Pittsburgh fans, but that's even more reason for Smith-Schuster to take over the game this weekend.
Does Smith-Schuster have it in him to be a true No. 1 receiver? He can make his case by coming through with a clutch performance against Baltimore.