The Pittsburgh Steelers have had exactly three pairs of 1000-yard receiver in their entire history…or at least they did heading into last night’s game. But after JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown both hit the 1000-yard mark in back-to-back weeks, they became the fourth 1000-yard duo the Steelers have ever had.
The first time it happened was in 2002, when both Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress crossed the 1000-yard plateau during the Tommy Maddox era. Each of them, in fact, had over 1300 yards. Ward had a career-high 12 touchdowns that year and Burress added another seven.
Ward duplicated the feat with Santonio Holmes in 2009 during what was one of Ben Roethlisberger’s most prolific passing seasons in spite of the fact that the Steelers actually went 9-7 that year and missed the playoffs once the defense fell apart following injuries to Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith.
The last pair to do it was Mike Wallace and Brown in 2011, the year before Brown actually entered the starting lineup. Both of them had over 1100 yards, though Brown had just two touchdowns to Wallace’s 10.
Brown went off for 154 yards on 10 receptions and a touchdown last night to vault him over the 1000-yard mark after coming into the game needing more yards than he had recorded in any game this season. Smith-Schuster similar required a big game the week before to record his first 1000-yard season.
As of now, Smith-Schuster, who became the 12th player in team history to post a 1000-yard season, is sitting on 83 receptions for the year with 1104 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Brown now has 81 receptions for 1029 yards and 12 touchdowns.
They now have four more games to better their numbers and become the most prolific pair of receivers the Steelers have ever had in a single season. For starters, both of them are on pace for over 100 receptions, and only Brown and Ward have ever done that even once, let alone in the same year.
According to Pro Football Reference, Brown has hit at least 1000 receiving yards during the Steelers’ first 12 games of a season six times including last night—six of the 11 times that has happened in team history, including Smith-Schuster accomplishing it a week earlier. Only Buddy Dial, John Stallworth, Yancey Thigpen, and Hines Ward had done it before, and each only once.
It’s a good thing that Brown and Smith-Schuster have been so good this season, because no other wide receiver on the roster has come even close to matching their output so far this year, even with the recent slow emergence of Ryan Switzer.
There’s no doubt that this offense depends greatly upon the health of these two wide receivers, so it’s no surprise that both of them have already been so productive, becoming the first pair in team history to reach 1000 yards in just 12 games.