For over a year now I have heard some Steelers fans complain about JuJu Smith-Schuster and his tendency to fumble the ball. Last off-season it came due to his fumble at the end of the game against the New Orleans Saints. Adding in the overtime fumble against the Baltimore Ravens in 2019, there have been two games in which the outcome was greatly determined by Smith-Schuster putting the ball on the turf.
It can’t be denied both of these fumbles were at key moments of two very close and important games. To say the fumble lost the Steelers the game would be difficult to dispute. But these are also the only two career fumbles for JuJu Smith-Schuster in the NFL. While some fans have labeled Smith Schuster a “fumbler,” where he stands statistically in Steelers history does not support this label at all.
In looking at career fumbles with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger leads the way with 106. Breaking them down to 99 regular season fumbles paired with seven postseason fumbles, Roethlisberger only holds the record by a narrow margin. Franco Harris had exactly 100 fumbles with the Steelers with 90 in the regular season and 10 in the playoffs. Franco played a total of 175 games with the Steelers, so his fumbles occurred, on average, at least every other game.
As for JuJu, he has 2 fumbles in 43 career games. Looking just a regular season statistics, it ends up being two fumbles in 212 touches. Just to clarify, a touch is considered either a reception or a rushing attempt.
In the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, of all the players that have had at least 200 touches, JuJu is tied with Jonathan Dwyer and Yancey Thigpen with only two fumbles. The only people who have had less fumbles were four players who had zero: Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala, Warren Keller, Bill Karcis, and Dick Riffle. If you are unfamiliar with the last three names on this list, they were all running back who played for the Steelers prior to 1942.
If looking just at wide receivers and tight ends, of the players with at least 200 touches with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the only player with fewer fumbles per touch is Yancey Thigpen. The only difference in the two players is Thigpen had 224 touches versus Smith-Schuster‘s 212. So if JuJu can catch at least 13 more passes without fumbling the ball, he will become the all-time receiver who is least likely to fumble the ball for the Pittsburgh Steelers out of qualifying players. This means all the Steelers’ great receivers such as Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Hines Ward, Louis Lipps, Antonio Brown, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, and so on all fumbled more per touch than JuJu. Looking at the players listed, all of them had double-digit fumbles while with the Steelers with the exception of Miller who had eight.
So while there is no denying the two career fumbles of JuJu Smith-Schuster have been very costly, to say he coughs up the ball often would be incorrect. Averaging just one fumble for every 100 receptions, the biggest thing Smith-Schuster can do is make sure he is holding onto the ball in the most key situations.