JuJu Smith-Schuster began the day by gutting out a toe injury that’s bothered him for weeks. He continued it by putting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first points on the board thanks to a 35 yard touchdown. How he ended it, however, is the only thing that will be remembered.
For the second time in seven games, dating back to last year’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, Smith-Schuster fumbled away a late-game chance for the Steelers to score. Today’s game in overtime, cornerback Marlon Humphrey punching the ball out, and setting up Justin Tucker’s game-winning field goal.
Smith-Schuster spoke to reporters after the game.
“I feel terrible man,” he said, captured by the Trib’s Chris Adamski and linked below. “It’s literally the worst feeling ever. Knowing the game’s on the line, you have the ball. Marlon Humphrey, that’s what he does. He made a great play.”
JuJu explains The Fumble, how it happened and how he feels about it pic.twitter.com/f5beBJFgKc
— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) October 6, 2019
Had Smith-Schuster hung onto the ball, the Steelers would’ve had 1st and 10 around their own 45 yard line. No guarantee that they score and win, of course, but it would’ve been easy to like their odds.
For as well as the defense played, for as well as Devlin Hodges played under such difficult circumstances, to lose – and lose like that – is heartbreaking.
Not to mention the season ramifications. His fumble last year cost the Steelers the ability to control their own destiny, relying on a Cleveland Browns win over the Ravens that never happened. Fast forward to today and Pittsburgh drops to 1-4, far out of the playoff picture. Since 1978, only 11 teams, about 5%, have made the playoffs after beginning the year with that record. There are some recent examples though, including the 2018 Colts, 2016 Dolphins (who lost to Pittsburgh in the playoffs), and 2015 Chiefs.
But that playoff light looks dim with the team possibly starting their third string QB for at least a week. And though the loss doesn’t fall all on Smith-Schuster’s fumble, his turnover directly led to the Ravens winning the game. Like last year, it could be the defining negative play of the season.