Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster enters the final game of his second regular season with plenty of cause for motivation. His number one goal is always to win games and to make the postseason, and the Steelers need this game, desperately, in order to get to that elimination tournament.
He’s also coming off of the lowest moment of his professional career, fumbling on a play to end the game last week, securing a loss to the New Orleans Saints that robbed the Steelers have their opportunity to have a play-in scenario today where they would merely have to win to ensure a postseason berth.
If that’s not enough motivation, he is also right on the line of putting up some of the most prolific receiving numbers outside of Antonio Brown that the franchise has ever seen. Through the first 15 games, he has already caught 106 passes for 1389 yards.
If you remove all of Brown’s team-leading numbers from the past several years, those numbers rank second and third all-time in franchise history. Smith-Schuster is just the third player with the Steelers to ever record 100 receptions.
He stands six receptions behind Hines Ward’s 112, the only season in which the former great had over 100 receptions in his career. Brown has topped that number a couple of times already, and with seven receptions today—something he’s already done eight times this year—he can move ahead of Ward as well.
His 1389 receiving yards would also rank third in team history in a non-Brown alternate universe. And it would be very close to the top. In fact, it would be unlikely that he doesn’t move ahead of the two non-Brown Steelers ahead of him.
While Brown owns the top four yardage marks in franchise history, John Stallworth had 1395 yards in 1984. Yancey Thigpen broke his record with 1398 yards in 1997, a record that held until Brown his 1499 yards in 2013.
Smith-Schuster would have to have a very good game to knock down any of Brown’s numbers—he would need 144 yards to move into third place overall—but he literally needs just 11 yards today to pass Thigpen and move into fifth place. The only game in which he has ever had less than that was the opener of his rookie season, when he was not targeted. Well, that and the playoff game, where he caught three passes for five yards.
He can also tie his own career-high in touchdown receptions if he records another today. Or he can have his second multi-touchdown game to set a new high with eight or more receiving touchdowns. You know that he’ll be highly motivated to do as much as possible to get the win, and that will involve putting up numbers.