The Pittsburgh Steelers made the decision to rest their starters against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday despite an outside shot of wrestling home-field advantage in the AFC from the New England Patriots and set multiple franchise records while doing so.
With leading sacker Cameron Heyward resting on the bench, the Steelers recorded 6 sacks to set a franchise record for the season with 56 and best their previous best of 55 in 1994 and 2001. On the other side of the ball, JuJu Smith-Schuster set a franchise record for receiving yards by a rookie, passing Jimmy Orr’s 910 yards in 1958.
Smith-Schuster had 9 catches for 143 yards and a score against the Brown and will finish the regular season with 58 catches for 917 yards and a touchdown. He also returned a kickoff for a touchdown and finished with 265 all-purpose yards on the day.
The Steelers would go on to win, albeit narrowly, 28-24 while the Patriots would take care of business against the New York Jets, so the Steelers kept their starters out of harm’s way and still gave themselves a shot to land the No. 1 seed had New England faltered. And to set a couple of long-standing franchise records in the process was a nice bonus on an otherwise cold and bitter afternoon.