In terms of consistently, there wasn’t much of it to be found for the Pittsburgh Steelers, really, on either side of the ball. But perhaps the best candidate for that distinction would be second-year wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who caught a game-high eight passes for 104 yards, which included some very big catches in key moments.
The vast majority of his work came late in the game, with 10 minutes or play or less. He had back-to-back receptions for 14 yards combined to put the offense into Jaguars territory before they turned the ball over on downs, but he had critical moments on their fourth-quarter touchdown possessions.
In fact, he had three catches in a row, for 9, 21, and then 9 yards, that moved the ball from the Steelers’ 44 to the Jaguars’ 17, which would result in a score three plays later. On the game-winning drive, he had a huge 35-yard reception against A.J. Bouye down the left sideline on second and four from the team’s 38 that instantly put them in field goal range with plenty of time remaining.
Said Ben Roethlisberger on the play of his youngest teammate, “I think one of the bigger plays that just kind of sticks in my head right now was JuJu on the sideline on a back-shoulder fade. I mean huge play. I tip my cap to him because we moved him around and put him in spots to win today, and he won for us”.
He added, after talking about how he always gives the kudos to the offensive line, and that they only go as far as a team as the guys up front take them, that “I think JuJu was kind of the hero today”.
Though he is still 21 for a few more days, Smith-Schuster has had no trouble presenting himself as one of the most mature players on the field on offense for the Steelers since his rookie season a year ago. Today was his fifth 100-yard game of the season, now standing at 64 receptions on the year for 866 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’ve been here before, we’ve done it already”, Smith-Schuster said about the offense’s mentality about getting the ball back with 1:42 to play. “We saw a play we wanted and we executed early. We got the job done. Double moves helped us win the game”.
“None of us were on the same page”, he said of the first half of play. “We were just playing ball, not even thinking about our plays, doing our detailed things”. But the wide receiver relayed that they talked in the locker room at halftime about finishing strong.
As for what was different in the final 30 minutes of play, it was nothing schematically. “Just play football, man. Just play our football the Steeler way and just do the right thing”, he said. Today, at least, that was enough to secure a victory over one of the best defenses in football, one that took the ball away three times.