Entering the NFL’s Conference Finals week, we knew one ex-Steeler would become a Super Bowl champ. Now, we know who. Kansas City Chiefs’ WR JuJu Smith-Schuster has won his first Super Bowl as the Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 Sunday night in Super Bowl 57.
The NFC and AFC Title games had ex-Steelers on every roster. Javon Hargrave on the Eagles, Smith-Schuster on the Chiefs, WR Ray-Ray McCloud on the 49ers, and CB Mike Hilton on the Bengals. The Eagles and Chiefs advanced to Sunday night’s big game and the Chiefs came out on top.
Smith-Schuster was the Steelers’ second round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He made an immediate impact his rookie year, catching 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, highlighted by a 97-yard touchdown against the Detroit Lions. He broke out the following year, catching 111 passes for over 1400 yards and another seven scores, including another 97-yard touchdown.
He battled injuries in 2019 and saw his role change in 2020, nearly becoming a full-time slot receiver who became purely an underneath/option route player. In 2020, his yards-per-catch dipped to 8.6, a number he matched in 2021 before suffering a regular season-ending shoulder injury. He returned for the team’s Wild Card game against his current team, the Chiefs, in what was a blowout loss for the Steelers. Smith-Schuster signed a one-year deal this offseason with Kansas City and had a strong season, catching 78 passes for 933 yards (12.0 YPC) and three scores.
Sunday was an exciting Super Bowl and played out as-advertised. Two impressive offenses and coaching staff with stellar quarterback play. The Eagles got out to a 24-14 lead. But Mahomes and the Chiefs stormed back with great low red zone concepts, hitting WRs Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore (after a long Toney punt return) to take a 35-27 lead. Philadelphia responded with a drive of their own, Hurts hitting a wide open Devonta Smith for a long gain before sneaking over the goal line. With a two-point conversion on a Hurts QB power run, the game was tied at 35 with minutes left.
Mahomes went on another drive, including a long scramble. On third down, the Eagles were flagged for defensive holding, setting up a short field goal try by kicker Harrison Butker despite the Eagles trying to allow the Chiefs to score. Butker hit from 27 yards out with eight seconds remaining. Hurts’ final Hail Mary attempt fell woefully short and the Chiefs won. Smith-Schuster has earned his first ring, playing a key second half role and ending the day catching with seven catches for 53 yards. Mahomes was named Super Bowl MVP, the second of his eventual Hall of Fame career.
Here’s Smith-Schuster postgame learning he reached the rest of his playoff incentives, playing 50% of the snaps and the Chiefs winning, to earn another $1 million in incentives.