The plan was to get back on the field and make it all better. Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was trashed by a segment of fans over the course of the past month while he sat out the past four games with a knee injury, despite maintaining a social media presence.
Still far from 100 percent, however, he did get back on the field, but his playing time was limited, and he only received four targets in the game. He caught two of them for first downs. The others, he feels he could have caught, especially the last one.
And it was a big one. it was fourth and seven with under a minute to play, down by seven points. Devlin Hodges had just bobbled a bad snap and had to get the ball out quickly. He delivered a solid throw down the field to his most veteran receiver, but it went over his hands.
“All I can think about is not making that play on that last drive. Other than that, that’s it”, he told reporters after the game. Not wanting to listen to reporters try to make excuses for him, he went on. “I make that catch, I go in the end zone, we score. That’s it. At the end of the day, the game’s on me, that’s my fault. Sorry everybody”.
As far as Smith-Schuster is concerned, this is the third game he’s cost the Steelers in the last 13 that he’s played, going back to the New Orleans Saints game. He fumbled after the defense gave up the go-ahead score late in that one, sealing the game. He also had a fumble in overtime earlier this year against the Baltimore Ravens that allowed them to kick the game-winning field goal.
“It’s frustrating when it’s the last play of the game – and you expect your guy to make the play, and I don’t make the play”, a clearly emotional Smith-Schuster said. “It’s not the first time I’ve let down my team and I’ve let down Steelers fans”.
“This is literally the worst feeling I the world”, he added.
The unfortunate part is that there are those who are glad that he feels this way, that in a certain sense perhaps he even deserves it. It seems a long way away from his 111-catch, 1426-yard season from a year ago, when everybody loved him right up to that Saints fumble, and even the most were still willing to forgive him.
But because he hasn’t been a superstar, for numerous reasons that largely have nothing to do with him, he has been open to criticism. He takes his failings hard enough as it is, but you can be sure the fans will let him know how much they think he sucks.