The Pittsburgh Steelers couldn’t get much going on offense until Antonio Brown broke out of coverage for a 78-yard touchdowns with about 16 minutes left to play in the game, but by the time the clock read 0:00, Ben Roethlisberger put up over 300 passing yards on the top passing offense and had two 100-yard receivers.
Brown was one of them. The other was JuJu Smith-Schuster, the second-year wide receiver whom Roethlisberger referred to as ‘kind of the hero’ of Sunday’s game, coming up with multiple big plays in the final couple of drives that led to their comeback victory.
The veteran quarterback talked more in-depth about his young target during his weekly radio appearance, saying that “he’s become a big-time receiver, making plays. I’ll say again how proud I am of him. He was one of the main reasons we won that game”.
According to Roethlisberger, the Steelers started to move him around more as the game wore on, giving him more opportunities to play on the boundary rather than in the slot, where he has seen the vast majority of his snaps on passing plays this season.
“We put him in a situation kind of late in the third and fourth quarter, put him in a different spot and said, ‘okay, this is where we think we can get the ball to a guy’”, he said. “So we put him outside, and I was calling plays for him, for him to win, whether it was on Ramsey, it didn’t matter who was on him, and he did it. He made plays for us when we needed him to make plays for us”.
That included a big 35-yard back shoulder catch against Jalen Ramsey with 1:39 to play, which moved the ball from the Steelers’ own 38 to the Jaguars’ 27, in field goal range while trailing by three points. On the previous drive, he had three straight receptions for a combined 39 yards.
“He’s not sneaking up on anybody,” Roethlisberger said following Smith-Schuster’s impressive rookie season. “That’s what makes him special is that he’s still doing it and he’s still trying and working to be better. He’s not satisfied and he’s not gonna let his play level off. So we’ll just keeping challenging him and pushing him and we what we can get from him”.
Smith-Schuster now has 64 receptions on the season for 866 yards and three receiving touchdowns, averaging 13.5 yards per reception while playing primarily from the slot. He has gained more yards from the slot than any player in the NFL this season with 658, 43 more yards than Tyreek Hill, who also has a game in-hand, and coming off a 215-yard game, of which 172 came from the slot.
Against the Jaguars, however, Smith-Schuster had just one catch for nine yards from the slot. He had seven for 95 yards lined up on the outside, so it’s clear that they did indeed deliberately move him to the outside to exploit what they felt was a winning matchup.