Rams’ Jalen Ramsey enjoys cornering top receivers such as Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster
During the Rams’ week off, cornerback Jalen Ramsey perused the Southern California housing market but did not find anything that met his needs.
“Not yet anyway,” Ramsey, acquired in a trade last month, said Friday. “I’m still going through the process right now. Still going through the process of getting in my routine as best as I can.
“I’m having fun. I’m enjoying life.”
One of Ramsey’s favorite activities on the field is shutting down an opponent’s top receiver. He gets another opportunity Sunday when he matches up against JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers. It will be the third time the young stars will be on the field together, but the first time Ramsey will focus on Smith-Schuster, the former Long Beach Poly High and USC star.
In previous games, when Ramsey played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, his assignment was to cover former Steelers star Antonio Brown, regarded as one of the best receivers in NFL history. Ramsey intercepted two passes in one game, one in another.
“No disrespect to him,” Ramsey said of Smith-Schuster, “he’s not Antonio Brown. ... I held my own in those battles and, yeah, now I’m going up against a different person, different body type, different receiver.
“A little big, can make plays. But I play my game. Not really worried about it.”
On Sunday, Aaron Donald returns to his hometown to play against his favorite team other than the Rams — the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Ramsey demonstrated why he is considered one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks during his Rams debut against the Atlanta Falcons. Ramsey mostly neutralized star Julio Jones while conducting a running commentary.
He also played well against the winless Cincinnati Bengals.
The matchup against Smith-Schuster would have been a much more difficult assignment if Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had not suffered an elbow injury in the second game of the season.
Mason Rudolph has been serviceable for a team that rebounded from a 1-4 start to win three games in a row, but he is no Roethlisberger, a six-time Pro Bowl selection.
With Brandin Cooks sidelined, Josh Reynolds will start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Last season, Reynolds replaced Cooper Kupp.
Smith-Schuster, who will turn 23 on Nov. 22, has made the Steelers look smart for selecting him in the second round of the 2017 draft with the 62nd overall pick. As a rookie, he caught 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. Last season, he had a team-best 111 catches for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns, and was voted to the Pro Bowl.
But when the Steelers traded Brown to the Oakland Raiders, Smith-Schuster no longer had the luxury of playing alongside a Hall of Fame talent. And the injury suffered by Roethlisberger has stunted the Steelers offense.
Smith-Schuster has 33 catches for 459 yards and three touchdowns. On Friday, he popped up on the Steelers injury report as a limited participant in practice because of a foot injury. He is listed as questionable for Sunday.
If he plays, he will find Ramsey waiting.
“He’s a great player and having an opportunity to go against him sharpens my craft and his craft so it will be fun,” Smith-Schuster told Pittsburgh reporters this week.
What makes him so good?
“His name is Jalen Ramsey, that’s why,” Smith-Schuster said.
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Smith-Schuster worked out for the Rams in Thousand Oaks before the 2017 NFL draft. Coach Sean McVay said this week that Smith-Schuster showed maturity for a player so young at the time. And he said the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Smith-Schuster is deceptively fast.
“You feel like, ‘All right, he might not be that burner, but he runs away from everybody,’” McVay said. “He’s got great game speed and it’s really just a challenge for our defense as a whole to know where he is at all times and make sure that he’s accounted for.
“Because as soon as you just slip up a little bit, he makes you pay and makes a big play that ends up changing the narrative of the game.”
Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman left USC for the NFL after the 2012 season. Smith-Schuster arrived at the school in 2014. Robey-Coleman said some observers mistakenly think that Smith-Schuster is slow. But that is only because he is measured against NFL receivers such as T.Y. Hilton, Tyreek Hill, DeSean Jackson and the Rams’ Brandin Cooks.
“You got people that got jet packs, literally on their back,” Robey-Coleman said. “He’s a fast receiver, and he’s faster when you underestimate his speed.”
Ramsey said he was focusing on his own preparation as he continues to get more comfortable in the Rams’ system. But he respects Smith-Schuster’s skills.
“I like his style of play,” he said. “He plays very physical. He plays strong, aggressive through the catch, so I’ve got to be on my [game] really.
“I look forward to it.”
Cooks practiced for the first time since suffering his second concussion of the season on Oct. 27 against the Cincinnati Bengals in London. Cooks traveled to Pittsburgh twice in the last two weeks to meet with a concussion specialist. He will not play Sunday and remains in the concussion protocol. “Part of the advice is just keep a normal rhythm and routine for him, staying active, avoiding some of those collision-type things,” McVay said. “It’s part of the plan to hopefully getting him back on the field.”… Running back Malcolm Brown (ankle) will play Sunday, McVay said. ... Steelers running back James Conner will not play Sunday because of a shoulder injury, according to the Steelers injury report.
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