Martavis Bryant who? JuJu Smith-Schuster made sure the absence of Bryant was less than noticeable after a record setting day filling in for the troubled receiver. The rookie receiver recorded the longest pass play in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history, scoring a 97-yard touchdown in the third quarter to help lead the Steelers to a 20-15 victory over the Detroit Lions. Smith-Schuster finished the game with 7 receptions for a whopping 193 yards.
Smith-Schuster, the youngest player in the NFL today, started off as strong as he finished, as on the first play from scrimmage the rookie receiver snatched a 41-yard grab from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. And just like he started, Smith-Schuster closed out the victory with a shovel pass reception on 3rd and one to close out the game. The rookie wide receiver also helped cover for many of the Steelers’ first half mistakes with his incredible performance.
Missed opportunities plagued the Steelers’ progress early in this game as the Mike Tomlin led team could not finish drives in opposing territory. Eli Rogers dropped an easy touchdown in the back corner of the end zone on the team’s first drive, forcing the Steelers to settle for three instead of seven. On the Steelers next opportunity in Detroit territory, Roethlisberger threw an errand pass into triple coverage that fell into the hands of Lions’ defensive back Glover Quin. Le’Veon Bell joined in on the action, fumbling the football deep in Lions’ territory before the half. A rare mistake for Bell, as the fumble was just the third of his career.
Though the Steelers’ offense was careless with execution, their defense would not break, weathering the aftermath of the offense’s struggles. The Steelers defense were able to hold the Lions to just five field goals and even chipped in with two crucial goal line stands.
The first came early in the third quarter and directly led to Smith-Schuster’s 97-yard touchdown grab. The second came with two minutes remaining in the game with the Lions facing another fourth and goal. Though Matthew Stafford was able to shred the Steelers three man pass rush for over 400 yards passing, the three man rush finally broke through on fourth and goal. Javon Hargrave was able to penetrate the pocket, causing an incomplete pass from Stafford.
The Steelers’ defense also was gifted a turnover midway during the fourth quarter as Lions’ receiver Golden Tate fumbled the football right into the hands of cornerback Artie Burns. Though the Steelers’ defense may have not looked pretty on the box score, the unit held on for a nail biting victory.
On offense, wide receiver Antonio Brown had a quiet game by his own standards, recording five receptions for 70 yards and was flagged for offensive pass interference, which shaved a touchdown off the scoreboard. The thunder to Brown’s lightning, Bell enjoyed a decent performance, rushing for over 75 yards and adding a rushing touchdown. Bell’s greatest play came perhaps not on a run but on an impressive pass block which set up his rushing touchdown. On a play prior to his score, Bell chipped not one but two Lions’ pass rushers to set up a big gain to Brown which led to his score.
Now at 6-2, the Steelers will enjoy their upcoming bye week before returning to action November 12th at Indianapolis against the Colts.