Lesson 2 – JuJu Smith-Schuster has been neglected in this offense
The “revenge game” narrative is not just boring but lazy journalism, too. Players don’t need “extra motivation.” The fact they earn their living performing on the field is enough.
What does seem to change, however, is how coaches approach games against players’ former teams. Not only did Smith-Schuster see his second-highest number of targets of the season, 6 (he saw 7 in Week 1 and Week 7), but Bill O’Brien managed to scheme him open a few times, too.
The Steelers’ reliance on linebackers instead of extra defensive backs helped. It allowed Smith-Schuster to separate from coverage.
Pittsburgh was almost forced to line up with linebackers instead of defensive backs because the Patriots’ offensive line actually held up quite well against the pass rush. They seemed to miss Kwon Alexander, Cole Holcombe, and Keanu Neal, who are all on IR. And Elandon Roberts can’t get back quick enough.
Zappe was only sacked twice this week; the Chargers sacked him five times last week (Khalil Mack is still good). Better pass protection also meant the offense didn’t have to revert to throwing terrible screen passes. Speaking of which...