NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster did something two plays before catching a 17-yard touchdown pass against the Titans that got Ben Roethlisberger’s attention and earned Roethlisberger’s respect.
Smith-Schuster willingly came out of the game.
“Guys were starting to get a little tired, it was humid out there,” Roethlisberger explained of what had taken place on the Steelers’ third possession of Thursday night’s 18-6 preseason victory. “I kinda subbed JuJu out. I could tell he was gassed and I said, ‘Hey, give us No. 13.’ I think that’s what is special and can be special about this group is the selflessness. I think every guy knows to be good we need to stay fresh.
“I think you’re going to see more of that than you probably ever have on this team, that guys will be OK kind of subbing out and rooting for their buddy to score and to do good things and make plays for us.
“We need to have guys ready to go and ready to roll and that’s kinda what we did on that third drive.”
Smith-Schuster had started the series with Donte Moncrief and Ryan Switzer in a three-receivers set. It was the third time the Steelers had operated with three wide receivers and the third time they went without a huddle.
But this time they extended the possession.
After six plays had advanced the ball from the Steelers’ 42-yard line to the Titans’ 23, the last two of which had been an 8-yard completion and a 6-yard completion to Smith-Schuster, the change was made.
No. 13, wide receiver James Washington, replaced Smith-Schuster and wide receiver Eli Rogers replaced Switzer.
Smith-Schuster came back into the game after sitting out two snaps and celebrated his return by finding the end zone.
“When we got tired, we rotated,” Smith-Schuster said. “We made our plays, no one was selfish.
“You can go a couple series without guys touching the ball and there’s no difference in their facial expression when they get the ball and they don’t get the ball because we all know that as long as we move the ball and we score everybody wins.”
TUITT CAN DO IT: Defensive end Stephon Tuitt had a pair of sacks, including one for a safety that opened the scoring.
“Oh, it’s so fun,” he said of dropping Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in the end zone and changing the scoreboard. “It’s a sack and a safety. I don’t know how much better it gets.”
Tuitt collected his two sacks over a span of four defensive snaps.
Next on his agenda is applying such pressure again and again when the regular season commences.
“Everybody here in the locker room knows I can do that all the time,” he said. “My goal is just be more consistent with it and help impact the game as much as I can.
“It’s not more me showing it for other people, it’s just me consistently doing it. Within the defense we’re going to have weeks in and weeks out when one guy is doing more than another, we have a lot of terrific guys out there. And sometimes, some weeks I’m going to be holding up two-to-three (blockers) and some other guy is going to make some plays. So I’m really OK with how my position is.
“Whatever game that comes in with me just doing my job and being consistent and creating pressure and helping us win games, that’s all that matters.”
WASHINGTON DOES IT AGAIN: Rudolph knows Washington as well if not better than anyone, having played with him at Oklahoma State.
But the second-year quarterback isn’t quite sure what’s different about the second-year wide receiver this season, Rudolph just knows Washington is a different player.
“I can’t say,” Rudolph maintained. “I just think it’s a matter of confidence and reps and a year under his belt of experience with myself and with Ben. Obviously, a lot more reps with Ben, he kinda has Ben’s trust now, which is big.
“He’s just really getting better each week he plays, whether it’s practice or game reps.”
Washington only had one reception against the Titans, but it went for a 41-yard touchdown from Rudolph.
Washington has caught one pass for at least 40 yards in all three preseason games.
Game action photos from the Steelers' third preseason game against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium