JuJu Smith-Schuster caught two passes for 11 yards on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. His stat line could have looked way different had just two of his other six targets done just slightly differently. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had the opportunity to hit his most veteran target on two different deep shots during the game, but they came within inches of connecting each time.
Given the context in which those plays occurred in the game, Smith-Schuster was very upset with himself after the game, taking the full blame afterward for those plays not being made. After the first miss—a would-be, 32-yard, game-tying touchdown in the second quarter—he was visibly frustrated on the sideline and threw his tablet down after reviewing the tape.
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“I get to point the finger at myself”, he said. “Like, yeah, you make those plays down the field. The one where it’s up the seam and you put seven points on the board, or even the one down the middle of the field, making those plays. There’s so many different plays that should’ve been made, but looking at my plays, it’s frustrating”.
“I’m human. I have feelings”, he added. “I was on the sidelines, I got upset with myself, because I make those plays. I never show emotions on the sidelines just because I know that I’m always being watched. But a game like this, a critical situation like that, I’m frustrated in myself. I’m not mad at the team, I’m not mad at the playcalling, I’m not mad at Ben for making the throw. It’s all on me”.
Smith-Schuster has grown to be polarizing over the course of the past couple of seasons, but one thing that never should be questioned is the effort that he puts in during games, and he has displayed that this year, even if the numbers don’t always show it.
So far he has just 15 catches on the season for 129 yards, averaging 8.6 yards per catch, exactly the same as last year. But once again, it’s the failure to connect on those deep passes that drags the average down, and frankly, I’m blaming Roethlisberger.
He does make his plays count, usually, including three third-down conversions on the year. He has one deep completion on the season so far, coming back in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, which went for 24 yards. He had not been targeted deep again until the two incompletions that he faced on Sunday.