Film Room: How JuJu Smith-Schuster Was Wide Open On His TD (And Why It’s Not A Surprise)

With Sunday’s touchdown, JuJu Smith-Schuster became the first sub-21 year old to haul in three touchdowns. And it was his easiest of the year, wide open down the left side for a 31 yard, walk-in score. At first glance, it’s surprising to see the Cincinnati Bengals blow a coverage that badly. Look a little closer and you might realize it shouldn’t.

The same thing happened only a year ago.

Week Four, 2016, primetime football against the Kansas City Chiefs. Ben Roethlisberger hits a wide open Darrius Heyward-Bey from 30 yards out. Another walk-in touchdown. Yup, you guessed it, it was the same play. We’ll break down what happened Sunday and then flashback to a year ago.

Steelers line up 3×1 out of 12 personnel with a TE “nub” backside, meaning there’s no receiver there. The backside TE runs an out route to hold the backside corner. To the front side, the three receiver side, #2 (JuJu) runs an over route across the field. If no one matches him, he’s open, because the CB is suckered in by the out route. Here’s the play drawn up.

And here’s the execution. Great path by Smith-Schuster to sift through the trash and work under the linebacker and then back over top without getting bumped off.

Bengals play with a single high safety. That’s where Roethlisberger comes in. Does a tremendous job to look right to move the deep safety away from where #2 (JuJu), is working to. With the safety out of the way, and the corner held by the tight end, Roethlisberger effortlessly moves back to his left to find a wide open rookie. Touchdown.

And here’s the whole thing.

Let’s look at last year. It’s out of 11 personnel, with a couple different route combinations underneath but the core concepts are identical. Backside TE (the nub), runs an out route to hold the CB. This time, it’s #3 running the over route. And you get the vertical shot to the three receiver side. It’s versus single high, the safety gets moved, and the over route is wide open.

Love the playcall from Todd Haley. Plays you keep in your back pocket when you need them most. And it worked 100% as intended.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • The Tony

    Excellent breakdown Alex.

  • NYCSteelCurtain

    He was bumped off his route too!

  • Doug Andrews

    Nice job by JuJu

  • Charles Mullins

    Fire Haley!…Sorry wrong thread.

  • JT

    Had that been Bryant, he probably turns and runs back to the huddle as soon as he’s bumped.

  • The Tony

    Bryant needs to play stronger. There is no reason why Bryant needs to avoid contact.

  • pcantidote

    Should have been a call for illegal contact too. Who was that, Burfict?

  • Brian Miller

    Yes, what, 10, 15 yards downfield he bumps/pushes him?

  • NCSteel

    You are fast becoming one of the best in the business Alex

  • razaard2

    If they play it differently, you still win. Either Bryant burning the corner for a long TD, or the te Open for Android easy first down. Defense, pick your poison. Great call against cover 3/cover 1

  • Jones

    As long as Ben sees it.

  • SfSteeler

    so much goin on in that play…too bad we cant get anyway near that in the RD…so often we see recievers bunched up on routes or just half into a route expecting that its gonna go to you know who…

  • JohnB

    eh you could at least say he’s not coming up with anything new…haha

  • T3xassteelers

    Hey, thats the play to DHB, I was at the game 😀

  • Alan Tman

    I think changing that play says they’re ready to part ways with MB10, and looking to boost JuJu’s stock.

  • PaeperCup

    Can you break down the route Juju took to find Bell behind the goal post?

  • KingDale300

    Excellent, excellent job Alex. Your work here never ceases to amaze me.
    Illegal contact there was blatant, but Juju still stays in line on his route, keeps the timing of the play, gets his easy TD. For whatever it’s worth, Bryant did have one thing right last night: the potential for Juju is there and it’s obvious.

  • Alex Kozora

    JuJu showed better bend cornering the goal post than Jarvis Jones ever did.

  • Alex Kozora

    Thanks King!

  • WilliamSekinger

    Nice write up Alex! Can’t wait for the all22 to come out so you all can tell us the all important question of when Bryant was open during the game and when he wasn’t.

  • SoCal Steeler

    Another nicely designed play and in defense of Martavis there was a TD there too with a good throw, no way the safety was going to get there in time and he had a step and a half on the defender, although the much easier throw was to an uncovered Juju. Kudus to Juju too for continuing to run hard after an illegal bump (and for making the easy catch that are sometimes the hardest ones to make) that like Burfict’s kick to the head wasn’t called.
    I can certainly understand Ben taking the wide open receiver over the merely open receiver and I can also see that play adding to Bryant’s frustration. Although I thought watching some of his routes that he wasn’t running full speed it certainly appears that he did on that one. Great job again on the breakdown, as usual, Alex!

  • Jonathan Davis

    Looks like ESPN straight up stole this and posted it on their Steelers site. Nice. *eye roll*

  • Guest12

    Alex, what do you mean when you say 12 personnel?

  • Alex Kozora

    1 RB, 2 TEs.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    That pattern reminded me of the water cooler tossing play where the cross was broken off and went up the field in to the vacated zones.

  • Richard Edlin

    The furthest inside of the third receivers makes it. One LB has to cover two players and has to give up on one of them. He loses Smith-Schuster and it’s a TD. Follow JJSS, and it’s a long gain to the other.

    Very nice to isolate a single defender.

  • EdJHJr

    Great film.

  • Guest12

    Got it