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JuJu Smith-Schuster's play does talking in Pittsburgh Steelers' win

By
Dana Gauruder, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) plays hide and seek to celebrate his touchdown in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on October 22, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) plays hide and seek to celebrate his touchdown in the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on October 22, 2017. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

DETROIT -- JuJu Smith-Schuster got sucked into a major controversy this week. He shrugged off the distraction and produced a breakout performance in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 20-15 win at Detroit on Sunday night.

Smith-Schuster, a rookie receiver from USC, caught seven passes for 193 yards and delivered the longest pass reception in team history. He beat Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs on a 97-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the third quarter.

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"He's not playing like a rookie," Roethlisberger said. "He's playing like a seasoned vet. It's fun to watch. I think he's just too young, too silly, too fun to know any better. But we love him and we hope we keep getting great play from him."

Smith-Schuster saw his role expand thanks to controversial comments by fellow receiver Martavis Bryant. Early in the week, Bryant expressed his frustration over his role in the Steelers' attack. Among his comments was a dig at Smith-Schuster.

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"JuJu is nowhere near better than me," Bryant said in his social media post.

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin responded to Bryant's criticisms by deactivating him for Sunday's game. While Bryant watched from the sideline, Smith-Schuster put on a show.

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"There was nothing for him to respond to. It didn't affect him or involve him whatsoever," Tomlin said of Smith-Schuster. "That guy's been working hard and doing his job. His play reflected that tonight."

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Smith-Schuster had scored three touchdowns in the Steelers' first seven games, but never had more than four catches or 58 receiving yards until Sunday. He made three catches, including a 41-yard reception, in the first half and was even better in the second half.

"It's prime time. It's 8:30 and everyone is watching," he said. "Those huge (early) catches gets me in a rhythm and we were able to get it done."

Roethlisberger was impressed that Smith-Schuster got mad at himself for dropping a pass on third down early in the fourth quarter. The 20-year-old bounced back by making a four-yard catch on Pittsburgh's final possession, picking up a clinching first down.

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"That was encouraging," Roethlisberger said. "He could have sat there and thought to himself, 'I had a great game and had all these big plays,' but he's sitting there dwelling on one he didn't make. For him to show that maturity and to care and be that selfless, be team first, that's what I like to see the most."

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