(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Warren Sharp of Sharp Football had an interesting post on Twitter today about the amount of 100-plus yard receiving games that teams have had within the last two years. The Falcons led the league with 23 games of over 100 yards receiving, while the Steelers were tied for second-last with the Browns and Eagles with six 100-plus yard receiving games. The Ravens ranked dead last with just five games where their receivers went over 100 yards receiving since 2019.
With the Ravens being a run-heavy team the past two years, it wasn't a surprise to see them last when it came to over 100-yard receiving performances. It wasn't a shock to see the Steelers tied for second-last either, as 2019 was pretty much a wash with Ben Roethlisberger playing all but six quarters before suffering a season-ending elbow injury. They had to rely on the likes of Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges, and the results were not pretty, which was to be expected with both quarterbacks previously never having a career start in an NFL game.
The Steelers had just two 100-plus yard games from their receivers in 2019 -- JuJu Smith Schuster in Week 8 against the Dolphins and James Washington in Week 13 against the Browns.
The passing game was a lot better with Roethlisberger back in 2020, but they did fade down the stretch, as defenses figured out the Steelers' dink-and-dunk attack and former offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner never adjusted. However, all in all, the Steelers had one of the best receiving corps last year, as they were the only team in the league to have four players with at least 50 receptions for 500 yards and five touchdowns. With the Steelers being so deep at the receiver position, it wasn't just one player getting all the targets and receptions, and Roethlisberger did a good job of spreading the ball around. So, as result, the Steelers had just four 100-plus yard receiving games in 2020 -- Chase Claypool in Week 5 against the Eagles and Week 17 against the Browns and Dionate Johnson in Week 10 against the Bengals and Week 11 against the Jaguars.
Smith-Schuster has gone over 100 yards receiving just once in the last two years. In contrast, he had eight 100-plus yard receiving games in 2018 when Antonio Brown was on the Steelers. Brown had a total of 13 100-plus yard receiving games in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
It will be interesting to see how the passing attack looks under new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, as I believe Smith-Schuster wasn't properly utilized last season by Fichtner with averaging just 8.6 yards per catch, which ranked 126th in the league. In addition, Smith-Schuster was dealt a bad hand in 2019 as he dealt with injuries and Roethlisberger was out for most of the year. So, hopefully, Smith-Schuster can put up 2018-type numbers this year and get back to having 100-plus yard receiving games. It won't only be beneficial to the Steelers, but it will also help Smith-Schuster when it comes to negotiating a new contract, as he's in another contract year after re-signing with the Steelers on a one-year deal.