JuJu Smith-Schuster is pretty good at football. Not sure if you've noticed.
After an unexpectedly productive rookie season that saw Smith-Schuster catch 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns — far beyond normal Steelers rookie wide receiver standards — Smith-Schuster emerged as the team's best wideout in 2018.
Playing opposite Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards, leading the team in both categories. He did, however, trail Brown's 15 touchdowns by a significant margin, finding the end zone just seven times.
That said, those 111 receptions contain some absolute gems. I went back through the season and rewatched play after play, remembering just how well Smith-Schuster performed in 2018. The Steelers will need more of that as they move on from Brown, and if his consistency is any indication, Smith-Schuster is up to the task.
Narrowing this list down to five catches was almost impossible. I had to leave out stuff like this:
And even this:
Many receivers don't make plays like those in their entire NFL careers. For Smith-Schuster, though, they weren't good enough to crack the top five of 2018.
Let's dive in and see which ones topped them:
Facing the Ravens in Baltimore during Week 9 action, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled and took a brutal hit early in the fourth quarter. Leading 20-13 at that time, Josh Dobbs was forced into the game, backed up against his own end-zone, with all the pressure of a rivalry game on his shoulders.
Then Smith-Schuster helped him out with this:
The Steelers won the game, 23-16, improving their record to 5-2-1 in the process. It's possible that play saved the game, too, which is precisely why it leads off at No. 5.
Side note: Oddly enough, Dobbs completed six passes total in 2018, two to Smith-Schuster — and both of them appear in this article.
4. SO. CLOSE.
Another rivalry game, another massive Smith-Schuster grab. In Week 6 action, the Steelers and Bengals were locked at seven just past the first half's two-minute warning. Thanks in large part to this contested, acrobatic snag, the Steelers entered the locker room with a 14-7 lead.
Officials would rule Smith-Schuster down at the one, and James Conner eventually punched it in for the touchdown. That gave the Steelers a seven-point lead, which they maintained to the end, winning 28-21.
3. BEST VS. BEST
So I break the rules a little bit with this one. Sue me. This entry contains two catches. But they occur in the same quarter of the same game, so I think we're OK here.
In a Week 11 matchup against the Jaguars, the Steelers overcame a 16-point second-half defecit to win, 20-16. That doesn't happen without Smith-Schuster doing this:
2. 19 + 97 = Six?
Smith-Schuster has a thing for going 97 yards to the house. As a rookie, Smith-Schuster went 97 yards for a score in his first start as a pro against the Lions. That tied the longest offensive play in Steelers history, and apparently he liked the way it all felt, because he did it again last year, this time against the Broncos:
No other receiver in history has two catches of at least 97 yards. Smith-Schuster has two in his first two seasons. If only that guy had speed, he'd probably be decent...
1. JUJU TOE TAP
Look, say what you will about Brown, but his "Tony Toe Tap" routine was remarkable to behold. At times, his cleats were turf-magnets, locking down just inside the field of play and in-bounds to pull off some beautiful sideline and end zone catches.
Last year against the Raiders in a Week 14 loss, Smith-Schuster flashed that ability, too. While No. 1 on our list is no 75-yard bomb or a historic 97-yard catch-and-run, this play, for me, was the best of Smith-Schuster's season.
Not the one you were expecting, right? Had to keep you honest. Yes, he did that in the same game. That's the aforementioned second reception from Dobbs and another beautiful illustration of Smith-Schuster's work along the sidelines.
But the real No. 1 winner came in the endzone, and it was so close it even fooled the referee standing just feet away:
That's a touchdown indeed, Mr. Announcer — and it was the best of Smith-Schuster's 2018 season.
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