The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of their best night of the season in terms of production from the wide receiver position. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson combined for 10 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns. James Washington’s lone catch for 21 yards put them over 200 as a position group for the first time in 2019.
While that has at lot to do with the fact that it was probably the most successful performance from the quarterback position of the season in terms of taking successful risks down the field, it also had quite a bit to do with the wide receiver simply balling out when they had the opportunity. There weren’t many chances they didn’t capitalize on.
The young trio has a confidence about them, which will hopefully serve them well. Though he’s a rookie, Johnson seemed to capture it best in his comments after the game. “It was the same to me”, he told Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette when asked about who was defending him.
“All of the DBs, they couldn’t really cover us, in my opinion. So we were just doing what we do best out there, making plays”.
They did make a number of plays, with all three of them racking up at least one explosive reception. Johnson’s was the most explosive, a 45-yard catch-and-run score on a slant route on third and 20 at the end of the first half. Mason Rudolph called the play after spotting the Miami Dolphins’ all-out blitz. They blocked it up, and then it was just a punt return, as many players said.
He made another impressive catch shortly before that, but it was taken away by an offensive pass interference ruling. Smith-Schuster later may have topped it all, however, later with his explosive-play touchdown, in which he jumped over the head of a defender and wrestled the ball away while falling into the end zone.
The only real missed opportunity came at the end of the second drive, when Rudolph chucked a ball into traffic to Washington. While he never should have made the throw in the first place, the receiver was in position to make the play, but he dropped the ball, which very nearly resulted in an interception.
Other than that, however, this was the most complete that the wide receiver group has looked so far this season, and their success in this game—even Washington hitting on key blocks—will serve to build confidence as they go forward. These are all young guys, 22 and 23 years old, and they don’t care who they’re going up against. They believe they can win, no matter the competition. And they’re starting to, as well.