In a world in which Antonio Brown didn’t exist, what JuJu Smith-Schuster has been doing so far this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers would be virtually uncharted territory. The second-year wide receiver is on the cusp of catching more passes for more yards in a single season than anybody not named Antonio Brown has ever caught in a Steelers uniform.
Following a big 11-catch, 115-yard performance against the New Orleans Saints—which obviously didn’t end in any way that he would have liked—Smith-Schuster became just the third player in team history to record 100 or more receptions in a season, joining Hines Ward and Brown. Brown also went over 100 receptions on the season in the game, the sixth time he has done so.
He has 106 receptions now with one game left to play, and as we currently stand, that is tied for the fifth-most in franchise history. But it’s the second-most among everybody who isn’t Brown. Here’s what the list looks like:
- Antonio Brown: 136 (2015)
- Antonio Brown: 129 (2014)
- Hines Ward: 112 (2002)
- Antonio Brown: 110 (2013)
- Antonio Brown: 106 (2016); JuJu Smith-Schuster: 106 (2018)
In case you were wondering, it’s pretty much the same story when it comes to yardage. He enters the season finale with 1389 receiving yards. That’s the seventh-most in franchise history, but the third-most among everybody that isn’t Brown, who owns the top four marks, all 1499 yards and above. That list:
- Antonio Brown: 1834 (2015)
- Antonio Brown: 1698 (2014)
- Antonio Brown: 1533 (2017)
- Antonio Brown: 1499 (2013)
- Yancey Thigpen: 1398 (1997)
- John Stallworth: 1395 (1984)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster: 1389 (2018)
As an aside, just think about how crazy it is that John Stallworth had 1398 receiving yards back in 1984. Or that Buddy Dial had 1295 in 1963. There are 16 1200-plus-yard seasons in team history and those are the only two earlier than 1995. Only four earlier than 2002.
The last time anybody on the Steelers other than Brown went for over 1200 yards was Mike Wallace in 2010 before Smith-Schuster achieved it this season. He’s the first since 2002 among non-Brown players to reach 1300, when both Ward and Plaxico Burress did it.
While it’s true that the game has been made a lot easier for offensive football over the years, what we’re seeing from this young 22-year-old as early as his second season is special. He needs to get into the end zone a little more, but he is among the most dangerous wide receivers in the league. And the Steelers have two of them.