Griffey Looking to Learn from JuJu, Other Experienced WRs

Steelers third-year wideout battling for spot in crowded corps

Josh Rowntree
June 03, 2019 - 10:00 am
Steelers WR Trey Griffey in 2019 OTAs

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

This offseason, the Steelers showed some faith in Trey Griffey. 

Despite not appearing in a game in 2018, Griffey, a third-year wide receiver out of Arizona, was given a Futures/Reserve contract by Pittsburgh in January. 

“There’s always nervous moments when the season ends,” he said following Pittsburgh’s sixth OTA Thursday. “I signed the futures contract, but it’s not official until you actually show up. I’m just happy to be here, to get better.

“I get to learn from Ben (Roethlisberger) every day. That’s something that every wide receiver wants to do is to learn from a Hall of Fame quarterback. I’m just blessed to be here and to learn from everybody here.”

Griffey spent parts of 2017 with the Colts and Dolphins before Pittsburgh brought him on last season. He caught four passes for 44 yards in the preseason before being chosen for the practice squad. 

“I think going into your second year, you’re a little more prepared, you know what to expect with the plays, just going through it,” he said. “I’m still refreshing, going through new things. All-around, everybody’s learning, just trying to get through it and just getting better every day.”

Griffey has the pedigree. His father, Ken Griffey, Jr., is one of the greatest professional baseball players of all-time, receiving the highest percentage of votes in the history of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Trey Griffey admits to leaning on his dad for advice on how to handle being a young pro athlete. 

“He told me to just go in there and do what you do,” he said. “Everybody’s going in there working for a job. He said that every though I was here last year, I still have to compete for a job. Nobody’s job is really secured. 

“Players get released, picked up, it’s daily. So you just go out there every day, do your best, and the next day do the same thing.”

Griffey seems content with his performance in OTAs to this point. He acknowledges that Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin has seen it, too. 

“It’s not just me,” he said. “It’s all the receivers, offensive line, defensive line, just everybody on the field is working their butts off every day.”

Griffey’s first year in Pittsburgh had to be an interesting one. He shared a receivers room with Antonio Brown, whose shenanigans have dominated headlines for the past few months. 

“Coach Tomlin deals with all that,” Griffey said of the drama. “He tells us to not worry about anything, just worry about the team, who’s here, and worry about doing what you’re supposed to do every day.”

Brown, not known as a particularly vocal leader, was a strong example for younger players, like Griffey, when it comes to work ethic. So who fills that void now?

“I’d probably say JuJu (Smith-Schuster), as far as playing wide receiver,” Griffey said. “Knowing the system very well, the success he’s had… I mean, last year was his second year and he goes to the Pro Bowl. Not a lot of players can say that.

“I played against JuJu in college. You see it in him as far as him competing against you, but that’s something to see in person, to see the way he works, the way he attacks every day, the way that he helps out. He’s got the most experience with (Roethlisberger). You can just see the success.”

Griffey is drawn to fellow receivers who have played with Roethlisberger over time. It’s a seemingly smart strategy, learning from those who know best. He credits Smith-Schuster and Steelers wideout Eli Rogers as players he has learned most from.

“They know exactly what (Roethlisberger) wants, what to do,” Griffey said. “Eli inside, JuJu outside and inside. So you pick up things from them and they’ll give you hints as to what Ben might do on this play or look out for this. So that’s always encouraging.”

Despite only being in his third year himself, Smith-Schuster is now the leader of the wide receivers group. It’s a heavy load for a player who is known for his off-the-field life as much as his play on the field. Smith-Schuster has made a name for himself as a social media star, influencer and video game player. 

“JuJu is Juju,” Griffey quipped. “He’s energetic. You never want a receiver just dull, walking around, not doing anything. JuJu is out there clapping, talking junk, that’s just how he is. You’ve got to love it. 

“Football wise, when he comes in here, he’s locked into football. It’s all football. Once he leaves here, he’ll go watch film and do stuff, he’ll get on his games and does what he does and then will be back to it the next day. But when he gets here, he’s definitely locked in.”

Griffey is a long shot to make the 53-man roster. As it stands, Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Donte Moncrief, Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer and rookie Diontae Johnson would appear to be the six receivers Pittsburgh would put on the active roster. But injuries or poor play, coupled with strong performances from Griffey in training camp and the preseason, could possibly open a door.

“You can’t really look too far into the future,” Girffey said. “You have to take it day-by-day, attack it one day at a time and do what you can do. When you’re called on to make a play, you have an opportunity and have to take advantage of it.”

Hear all of what Griffey had to say below.