If JuJu Smith-Schuster hadn't gone out of his way to dance on the Cincinnati Bengals' logo before Monday's game, would the Pittsburgh Steelers have escaped whatever ancient curse has befallen them, causing them to lose their third game in a row after 11 straight wins? Perhaps, but the wide receiver did that despite explicitly being warned not to by Bengals safety Vonn Bell, who followed up with a more forceful response during Cincinnati's 27-17 victory.
Here is JuJu sowing:
And here he is reaping:
Smith-Schuster's dance earned headlines, and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin says he'll have a chat with his star wideout about "respect." But unless Smith-Schuster's dancing is responsible for transforming quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into a rotten pumpkin, it's not really why his team lost.
After starting the season playing well and not turning it over too much, Roethlisberger has turned into something of a liability who can't throw downfield. He came out so flat that his first pass of the game should have been picked off, and the Bengals leapt out to a 17-0 second-quarter lead while Roethlisberger was 5-for-13 for -2 yards with a lost fumble and an interception. He ended the game 1-for-13 with a touchdown and a pick on throws of 10 yards or more, and he sealed the Bengals' third win of the season with this airmailed throw.
As running back James Conner has struggled with injuries over the past month, Roethlisberger has needed to step up, and it seems that he's no longer capable of doing so. That's a much bigger problem for this team than Smith-Schuster's TikToks. Even though they earned themselves a cushion with their 11-0 start, Pittsburgh has to play the Colts next weekend, and the division is no sure thing with the Browns at 10-4 and waiting in Week 17. Fortunately for Roethlisberger, that final regular-season will be in Cleveland, so if JuJu dances again and they lose, everyone can once again blame him instead of the guy who deserves the scrutiny.