JuJu: Different with No ‘Individuals’ on Team

Steelers WR keeping football, life positive as he takes on leader role

Josh Rowntree
June 12, 2019 - 12:14 pm
Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster at OTAs in 2019

Josh Rowntree - 93.7 The Fan

To a man, every Steelers player that has been with the team over the last couple of years says that there is a different vibe in the locker room. 

Count JuJu Smith-Schuster among them.

“There's a difference when there's no individuals in here,” Smith-Schuster said Wednesday at Steelers second day of Minicamp. “There's a team. I think that's what we have here that's special this year, with the chemistry we have. We're the Steelers. There's always an expectation to go to the playoffs and win games.

“We believe in each other. This year, our chemistry, the locker room, every one is all in, together, just to win a world championship.”

The comments are interesting. Smith-Schuster was dragged into the divorce of Antonio Brown and the Steelers. Brown took direct shots at Smith-Schuster, who was named the team’s MVP in 2018, and Smith-Schuster, for the most part, took the high road. Despite what some could see as a backhanded dig at Brown, he continued to avoid a direct jab Wednesday.

“The man’s a role model and, in that situation, I didn’t want it to end like that,” he said. “I have no hard feelings against him. If we’re ever in the same room, I’m going to say ‘what’s up’ to him. I think hatred is a huge word to use against somebody. He’s a great player. He comes out every day, his work ethic, he worked hard. But other than that, no, I don’t have anything towards him.”

With Brown gone, Smith-Schuster is going to be thrust into the top wide receiver spot. It’s a lofty task for a player who, admittedly, thrived thanks to the double coverages Brown pulled from defenses the last two years. 

“The competition, I’m ready for all that,” he said. “The double teams, all that too.”

He will also need to take on more of a leadership role as one of the most experienced players in the receivers room and the player likely most familiar with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. 

“It’s only my third year coming in,” he said. “We’ve got vet guys, guys that have played more years. But just being more vocal and speaking up in the group. Everyone in the room is a leader. Everyone who wants to say something can say what they want. 

“I need to be a leader by making plays on the field and speaking up to the guys.”

Brown’s production will be missed, no doubt. He currently sits 34th in NFL history in receiving yards. A good season with Oakland could move him into the top 20 all-time. So it’s up to Smith-Schuster and — as he puts it — others to fill the void. 

“All those catches, all those yards, we can spread it out,” he said. “Ryan Switzer, (Donte Moncrief), our new receiver Diontae (Johnson). Those catches, those yards, they’ll all be made up with wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, everybody. There’s not just one person.”

How he fits into the mix specifically?

“I’m the person who plays all the way around, inside and outside,” he said. “That’s what’s great about our room is that we have guys that can play everywhere, not just one position. We’re not centering off of one person because we know everybody can make their plays.”

Smith-Schuster admits to learning much from Brown’s on-the-field exploits. And that is a good thing for the Steelers. But Pittsburgh will, ultimately, want him to stay away from Brown’s behavior off-the-field, where Brown became a nuisance and a popular name in all the wrong headlines. 

"I never want to be the center of attention for causing problems or any issues for the organization,” Smith-Schuster said. “I just try to stay positive as much as possible."

Hear all of what JuJu Smith-Schuster had to say below.