Steelers’ JuJu Smith-Schuster injures knee as AFC wins Pro Bowl
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Pro Bowl long has been considered a laughable representation of the NFL game.
It reached a new level of comedy Sunday as several players swapped positions.
Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey caught a touchdown pass in the final minute, capping a dominate performance for the AFC defense in a 26-7 victory over the NFC in steady rain.
Pittsburgh Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster left the game with a bruised knee, but the injury was not considered serious. However, he was limping on the way to the bus and declined comment. Smith-Schuster had one catch for 16 yards.
Teammate James Conner ran six times for 11 yards. Cameron Heyward had 11⁄2 sacks and tied for the team high with six tackles.
It was the third consecutive victory for the AFC, all of them at Camping World Stadium.
The last two were played in sloppy weather, with the latest one also coming amid temperatures in the mid-50s. It was far from ideal conditions, raising speculation about the game’s future in Orlando but fairly fitting considering the effort players provided. It was two-hand touch most of the day, with officials blowing plays dead at the slightest hint of contact.
“Who cares, man?” New York Jets safety Jamal Adams said. “At the end of the day, we’re like little kids out there just playing in the mud, playing in the rain.”
Regardless of the elements, the AFC made the plays the NFC didn’t.
Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes completed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Indianapolis’ Eric Ebron on the opening possession, helping Mahomes earn the offensive MVP. Mahomes pleaded with voters to give it to Chiefs fullback Anthony Sherman, who caught three passes for 92 yards and ran for a score.
“Sherman had my vote. Sherman had my vote,” said Mahomes, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 156 yards. “I thought I told everybody on the camera. He made some plays out there. For a fullback, we have one of the best in the league so I’m always happy to try to get him a little vote like that.”
Adams, who made headlines for sacking the New England Patriots mascot during a Pro Bowl skills competition, was named the defensive MVP thanks to an interception and a sack.
“It’s a great achievement, but the main thing was to come out here and get the victory,” Adams said. “That was the main thing, just to get the money, man. That’s what we wanted.”
Mahomes and Adams each got a luxury vehicle.
AFC players will get $67,000 each for the victory, $8,000 more than the guys who lose the Super Bowl next week in Atlanta. The Pro Bowl losers will get $39,000 each.
The AFC defenders earned their share of the pot. The conference allowed the NFC 148 total yards and 10 first downs, intercepted three passes and recorded seven sacks.
Ramsey got in on offense late, catching a 6-yard slant pass from Houston’s Deshaun Watson with 19 seconds remaining. Los Angeles Chargers rookie safety Derwin James failed to haul in the 2-point conversion.
“Man, me and Deshaun, that’s my brother from another mother,” Ramsey said. “We’ve been plotting and scheming all week, manifesting, and it just came about.”
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans and New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara all got in on defense for the NFC. Evans had an interception.
The AFC led 20-0 early in the fourth quarter, looking like it might record the first shutout in Pro Bowl history. But Dallas’ Dak Prescott found Atlanta’s Austin Hooper for a 20-yard score on fourth down with 9:09 remaining.
The NFC had plenty of chances before that. The conference failed to score on a fourth-and-goal run early. Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky, Minnesota receiver Adam Thielen and Prescott threw interceptions.
Trubisky was sacked by Adams on a flea flicker, and Dallas’ Amari Cooper had a wide-open touchdown pass bounce off his face mask.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson also was sacked four times.