“There’s no consideration about me having better numbers than AB,” Smith-Schuster said when asked about any complications with him outpacing Brown in those categories.
On the same weekly radio show where quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Brown should have run a more “flat” route on a goal-line interception in the final two minutes of Sunday’s 24-17 loss at Denver, Roethlisberger said he wished he would have thrown to Smith-Schuster on all four downs as the Steelers tried to erase a late deficit.
Smith-Schuster has 77 catches, 1,055 yards and 4 touchdowns after a 97-yard score in Denver. Brown leads the Steelers with 11 touchdowns among his 71 catches for 874 yards.
Smith-Schuster’s 1,972 career yards are the fourth most for a player’s first 25 NFL games.
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said Thursday that Smith-Schuster, like many before him, is “making money” off a primary receiver such as Brown drawing a safety to his side of the field. Smith-Schuster also credits Brown with opening passing lanes.
“Obviously, AB’s been here, what, eight, nine years? He’s getting double-teamed, triple-teamed. It’s hard,” Smith-Schuster said. “But he still makes his plays. And he still has explosive plays that he’s making and for me to be a young guy, just like me, James [Conner] and some of the other guys who are able to eat off his plate based on what he’s done in the past.”
Brown and Smith-Schuster spend their days trying to challenge each other, Smith-Schuster said. Smith-Schuster called his pregame ritual with Brown “G.O.A.T. Time” as the two celebrate the performances they are about to have, and Smith-Schuster tries to match Brown’s intensity every Sunday.
“We’ve got to do what’s best for the team,” Smith-Schuster said of the notion the receivers will have a rift over stats. “We’re not looking at it as an individual thing. If you want there to be a problem between me and AB and the other guys, that’s not happening.”
But while Brown is still the top option on opposing team’s scouting reports, Roethlisberger clearly supports Smith-Schuster’s growth, which could continue to affect Brown’s production line.
“He’s reliable, dependable and trustworthy,” Roethlisberger said of Smith-Schuster after Sunday’s game.
Roethlisberger, who also criticized rookie receiver James Washington on his radio show Tuesday, said as a captain and a leader he has earned the right to publicly call out teammates when necessary, but that he doesn’t abuse it.
Smith-Schuster said his quarterback is “100 percent” correct in his approach and that Roethlisberger will also talk to receivers individually.
“They call receivers divas. I don’t know why. We could be. I can see that,” Smith-Schuster said. “But we have to learn to take criticism and be better not only for the individual but for the team.”
One critique Smith-Schuster doesn’t like is that he was slow coming out of USC in 2017. The second-round pick ran a respectable but not blazing 4.54-second 40 at the scouting combine.
Since then, he’s the NFL’s only player with three touchdowns of at least 75 yards.
“Bro, like c’mon. You see what I’ve been doing — 97 yards, 75 yards,” Smith-Schuster said. “Like, c’mon, man. I’m out here.”