Recap of Ben’s “Special Edition” Wednesday (Bye Week) Show with Cook & Poni:
Roethlisberger and the Steelers are heading into the bye week at (6-2) after a 20-15 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday night. The Steelers are tied with New England and Kansas City for the best record in the AFC at the halfway point of the season.
A big part of the Steelers victory over the Lions this past week was due to the performance of rookie wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster who has now been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week and Ben talked about what it means to the team to have him breakout like this.
“It’s fun to watch him,” Ben told us. “The kid just has fun playing football. It’s so innocent, and I don’t want to say it’s just youthful innocence, but he just really enjoys just going out and playing football.”
A big part of Juju’s breakout was the 97-yard touchdown pass he caught and Ben walked us through that play and how it came together.
“We had talked about something earlier in the game where he didn’t get open on a similar type defense because he tried to give a move…On the sidelines when we talked about it previously in the game, I said ‘Next time, don’t try and give him a move, just beat him with speed and see if we can get him because he’s waiting for you to make that move.’ So we got the perfect look…and this time instead of giving the move, he just went fast, went down the middle, at the top of his route just gave a little head nod instead of slowing his feet down and got just enough separation that I could put it over the top and let him run under it and he didn’t break stride as he’s running…We were laughing in the quarterback room though, he must have looked over his shoulder 20 times back and forth like, ‘I’ve got three guys chasing me, who’s gonna catch me?’
Juju did have one mistake where he dropped what could have been a critical third down pass and Ben shared with us that when he congratulated Juju afterwards for his big game, he was still focused on that drop.
“He was sitting there and his head was kind of down. I said, ‘Hey, good game, I’m proud of you, way to play’ and everything and he was like, ‘Man, I never should have dropped that pass.’ That’s great to see, to hear, that he cares so much. He could have very easily sat in his locker and said I just had almost 200-yards receiving, had a 97-yard touchdown, I had a great day, I helped us win this game. But he sat there and was more worried about how he almost cost us the game. Whether it did or didn’t is irrelevant, it’s just the fact that he took that play to heart so much meant a lot to me.”
A lot of the work Juju saw was thanks to Martavis Bryant being made inactive for this game and Ben said he talked to Martavis after the game about trying to get him back in the action.
“I will say this too, a lot of Juju’s catches didn’t come at Martavis’ position. Even when Martavis is playing, Juju works inside a lot too. That big touchdown, that was not Martavis’ position. We can’t sit here and say, ‘Ok, look what he did and Martavis didn’t do because he was catching balls at different positions.”
Despite Mike Tomlin’s comments after the game about Martavis in which he expressed skepticism about whether or not Martavis can contribute moving forward, Ben has nothing but confidence in his receiver.
“I’m excited, I think he’d going to have a great second half. I mean I need to have a great second half. If we both have great second halves, I think we can be a successful offense.”
You can listen to Ben’s full show here.