PITTSBURGH -- Now that’s how you start a game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' offense needed one play to get into the end zone Thursday night, thanks to Ben Roethlisberger’s deep connection with JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 75-yard touchdown on the Carolina Panthers with 10:18 left in the first half.
Thirteen seconds later, the Steelers hit pay dirt again when Vince Williams caught a wobbly pass from Cam Newton, who was under pressure from T.J. Watt, and returned the interception 17 yards for a touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
The Steelers' defense gave up a nine-play touchdown drive to open the game, but the offense responded when Smith-Schuster slipped past corner James Bradberry, and Roethlisberger found him in stride down the sideline. Bradberry bit on a short route, and Smith-Schuster did the rest.
This is the third time since 2001 that 21 points were scored in the first five minutes of a game. The other such games were Browns-Bengals in 2004 and Rams-Jaguars in 2005.
Big-play Smith-Schuster now has four receptions of at least 67 yards since he was drafted in 2017, and he entered the game as the team’s leader in receiving yards, with 672.
Smith-Schuster reached 20.07 mph on his touchdown, his second-fastest TD this season, and sixth-fastest on the team, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The 75-yard TD was the longest first play from scrimmage in Steelers history, according to Elias.
After the play, Le’Veon Bell, who was watching at home, tweeted, “JuJu is so special man.”
The Steelers countered with an eight-play, 61-yard scoring drive capped by a 2-yard James Conner rushing touchdown to take a 21-7 lead.