PITTSBURGH — JuJu Smith-Schuster exploded for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense on the same day Martavis Bryant was inactive after he made comments on social media, saying that “JuJu is no where near better than me.”
Smith-Schuster, who lost his bicycle this week and documented the loss on social media, broke the Steelers-Lions game open with a 97-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. On third-and-long, Ben Roethlisberger squeezed the ball between the corner and safety over the middle of the field, and Smith-Schuster did the rest.
“How I saw it was Ben called the play, and I was like the middle feels open,” Smith-Schuster said. “You got to take it. I took it. Ben believed in me and got the job done. It was great.”
Roethlisberger explained that the touchdown was set up by an earlier route.
“[The Lions] gave us a coverage where the safety split wide, kind of a 22 man. And JuJu had something similar to that earlier in the game, and he tried to kinda juke the guy and then give him an out move and then go up,” Roethlisberger said. “I told him, I said, ‘Listen, next time you get that look, if it’s a 22-type man, beat ‘em with speed. Just get down there.’ And that’s what he did. And I threw it over the top, and I told him, I didn’t know he had that much speed. He said he didn’t either.”
The play was the longest receiving touchdown in Steelers history and the longest of the NFL season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin benched Bryant over his comments, which refueled his trade demands. He said the Steelers should give him what he wants and can have “JuJu and whoever else.” Smith-Schuster, 20, slid into the No. 2 receiver role with 189 yards on his six receptions.
After the game, running back Le’Veon Bell called Smith-Schuster the “best player ever under [the age of] 21.”
“Hands down, got a lot of room to grow, for him to be 20 and play the way he plays is unbelievable,” Bell said. “He can block, catch the ball short, go balls, mentally in the game, best player ever under 21.”
At 20 years old, Smith-Schuster is the youngest Steeler to record a 100-yard receiving game. Entering Sunday, Roy Jefferson was the youngest, at 22.
The “best player ever under 21″ didn’t celebrate his touchdown in the end zone, but he pretended to lock up an exercise bike on the sideline.
Smith-Schuster also participated in Bell’s celebration of a 5-yard touchdown run in the first half, getting on all fours and serving as the bench as Bell pressed the football, James Harrison style.
The rookie wide receiver has a hand in coordinating the team’s intricate celebrations and says it’s a matter of “bringing my younger generation into the guys. Getting everyone to celebrate more.”
Also an accomplice in the Steelers’ celebration catalog? Smith-Schuster’s phone. He said he has a list stored in his iPhone of even more celebrations that he and Bell have discussed for future use.
Smith-Schuster went into deeper detail in explaining Sunday’s bike lock celebration.
“So today we had a lot of free time, so I decided I got to get a chain, so I went to Home Depot down the street, bought a chain, and I was like, if I score, my celebration is going to be the bike thing,” Smith-Schuster said. “So we have the spin bike where … train to warm up your legs, as soon as I scored, I went to the bike, grabbed the chain and locked it up, and it was fun to prove that I got my bike back and I’m locking it up this time and with my boys and celebrating.”
Smith-Schuster said the past week has been “crazy,” but he didn’t take Bryant’s comment personally.
Smith-Schuster finished the Steelers’ 20-15 victory over the Lions with 193 yards and one touchdown.